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Cynthia Reinhart-King

Senior Associate Dean for Research
University Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Cell and Developmental Biology
Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Engineering

Biomedical Engineering

Research Focus

The central mission of the Reinhart-King lab is to understand the mechanisms that drive tissue formation and tissue disruption during diseases such as atherosclerosis and cancer. Specifically, we focus on how physical and chemical cues within the extracellular environment drive fundamental cellular processes including cell-matrix adhesion, cell-cell adhesion and cell migration. We employ multidisciplinary methodologies involving principles from cell biology, biophysics, biomaterials and biomechanics. Of particular interest are the pathophysiology of angiogenesis and atherosclerosis and the extracellular cues driving metastatic cell migration.

We use a multi-scale approach to understand how cells integrate physical and chemical cues within their environment. At the tissue level, we characterize the structural, mechanical and compositional changes occurring in tissues during disease progression using advanced imaging techniques, mechanical measurements, histology, and biochemical assays. We use this knowledge to build models of healthy and diseased tissues using tissue engineering approaches and microfabrication. At the cellular level, we use these models to understand how physical and chemical features within the extracellular matrix alter cell behaviors such as adhesion, migration and proliferation. At the molecular level, we use various cellular and molecular biology tools to uncover the intracellular pathways being affected by the microenvironment. This multi-scale, integrated approach has the power to uncover novel therapeutic targets to slow and/or prevent diseases such as atherosclerosis and metastasis.

Selected Publications

  1. Wang, W., Hapach, L.A., Griggs, L., Smart, K., Wu, Y., P.V. Taufalele, M.M. Rowe, A.C. Johnson, N.J. Ferrel, A. Pozzi, C.A. Reinhart-King, “Diabetic Hyperglycemia Promotes Primary Tumor Progression through Glycation Induced Tumor Extracellular Matrix Stiffening,” Science Advances, 8(46):eabo1673
  2. Zanotelli, M.R., J. Zhang, C.A. Reinhart-King, “Mechanoresponsive metabolism in cancer cell migration and metastasis,” Cell Metabolism, 2021, 33(7):1307-1321.
  3. Hapach, L.A., S.P. Carey, P.V. Taufalele, W. Wang, J.A. Mosier, N. Ortiz-Otero, T.J. McCardle, Z.E. Goldblatt, M.C. Lampi, F. Bordeleau, J.R. Marshall, I.M. Richardson, J. Li, M.R. King and C.A. Reinhart-King, “Phenotypic Heterogeneity and Metastasis of Breast Cancer Cells,” Cancer Research, 2021, 81(13):3649-3663.
  4. Zanotelli. M.R., A. Rahman-Zaman, J.A. VanderBurgh, P.A. Taufalele, A. Jain, D. Erickson, F. Bordeleau, C.A. Reinhart-King, “Energetic costs driven by cell mechanics govern decision-making during confined migration,” Nature Communications, 2019, 10(1):5619.
  5. Zhang, J., F. Bordeleau, C.A. Reinhart-King, “Energetic regulation of coordinated leader-follower dynamics during collective invasion of breast cancer cells,” PNAS, 2019, 116(16) 7867-7872.
  6. Lampi, M.C. and C.A. Reinhart-King, “Therapeutically targeting increased extracellular matrix mechanics to attenuate disease: From molecular targets to clinical trials," Science Translational Medicine, 2018, 10(42) eaao0475.

Selected Honors and Awards

  • 2022-2024 -- BMES President
  • 2021 -- AIMBE, Elected Board of Directors
  • 2021-2024 -- Elected Faculty Senator, Vanderbilt University
  • 2021-2023 -- co-Chair, Faculty Senate Affairs Committee
  • 2020 -- Chancellor’s Research Award, Vanderbilt University
  • 2020 -- W.M. Keck Foundation Research Award (1 of 3 nationwide)
  • 2020-present -- Associate Editor, Science Advances
  • 2018-2022 -- NIH CMT Study Section, Standing Member
  • 2018-2021 -- Chair, AIMBE Diversity and Inclusion Committee
  • 2018 -- Inaugural BMES Mid-Career Award
  • 2018-2020 -- National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine Inaugural New Voices Fellow
  • 2018-2020 -- BMES Secretary
  • 2018-2020 -- Editorial Board Member, Biophysical Journal
  • 2017 -- Fellow, Biomedical Engineering Society
  • 2018-2022 -- Standing Member, Cellular and Molecular Technologies (CMT) Study Section, NIH
  • 2016 -- AIMBE Fellow 
  • 2016 -- Public Voices Fellow, Cornell Op-Ed Project 
  • 2016 -- Program Chair for the 2016 Annual BMES Meeting, Minneapolis, MN. 
  • 2015 -- Zellman Warhaft Commitment to Diversity Award, Cornell College of Engineering, for outstanding involvement in diversity issues. 
  • 2014-2017 -- Elected Board of Directors Member, National Biomedical Engineering Society 
  • 2013 -- Cook Award, Cornell University, for commitment to women's issues and contributions for changing the climate for women at Cornell. 
  • 2011 -- NSF CAREER Award 
  • 2010 -- Sonny Yau ’72 Excellence in Teaching Award, College of Engineering 
  • 2010 -- Rita Schaffer Young Investigator Award, Biomedical Engineering Society