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Cambridge Stem Cell Institute


Professor Ewa Paluch

The mechanobiology of cell shape control


Departmental Affiliation: Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience



The Paluch Group investigates the basic principles underlying animal cell morphogenesis. A precise control of cellular shape is key to cell physiology, and cell shape deregulation is at the heart of many pathological disorders including cancer. Yet, how cells regulate their own shape remains poorly understood. We investigate this question taking an interdisciplinary approach combining molecular and cell biology, quantitative imaging, mechanical measurements and physical modelling.

We particularly focus on the cell cortex, a thin actomyosin network that lies under the plasma membrane and determines the shape of most animal cells. The cortex enables the cell to resist externally applied stresses and to exert mechanical work. As such, it plays a role in normal physiology during events involving cell deformation such as cell division and migration, and in the pathophysiology of diseases such as cancer where cell shape is often deregulated.

Key questions we investigate include:

  • The nanoscale architecture of the cortex, to understand cortex mechanics across scales, from molecular processes up.
  • The biomechanics of cell division and migration.
  • How modulating actin organisation and cell mechanics controls cellular shape changes.
  • The cross-talk between cell shape and cell fate.


Additional links

Paluch Lab page