Our vision of the interface between biology and physics. We use physical tools to generate novel mechanistic insight into fundamental biological questions.

Maxim Molodtsov : Mechanobiology and Biophysics Laboratory

Our laboratory investigates how cells organise themselves in space and time at multiple scales, from single molecules to cellular structures. 

Many cellular processes, such as the regulation and segregation of our genome, depend on the fundamental ability of cells to accurately organise and rearrange their interior.

At the molecular level, these rearrangements are driven by tiny molecular machines – usually proteins – that generate mechanical forces and movements. To achieve complex cellular organisation at scales much larger than any of the component parts, the action of many molecules must be precisely coordinated.

We are beginning to understand how individual machines work at the molecular level. 
However, we do not yet understand how the various mechanisms that generate and respond to mechanical forces are coordinated and integrated together in cells.

To address this question, we are studying two processes: the rearrangement of the cell’s internal scaffold – the microtubule cytoskeleton – and the organisation of DNA.

We combine incredibly sensitive techniques that can manipulate single molecules and molecular assemblies, such as single-molecule microscopy and force-spectroscopy, with mathematical modelling. We use these to investigate how complex intracellular rearrangements result from interactions between specific groups molecular machines and non-motor molecules in lab conditions. We are also engineering new physical tools to study them in living cells.

Ultimately, we would like to discover both the mechanistic principles underlying intracellular rearrangements, and understand the differences in these mechanisms between different types of cells. 

Our group is affiliated with the Department of Physics and Astronomy at UCL.