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Biomedical Engineering

Cellular Sensing and Control

The Vanderbilt Institute for Integrative Biosystems Research and Education and the Merryman Mechanobiology Laboratory advance the scientific knowledge of cellular stimuli and their effects and the instrumentation that makes such studies possible. Whether researchers mechanically stimulate cells or perturb signaling pathways to elucidate the mechanisms leading to cardiovascular disease and arrhythmias, or develop chemically controlled cellular microenvironments with integrated sensors, these labs bring together faculty members, students, physicians and industrial collaborators to address pressing questions in integrative biology.

Cellular Sensing and Control

Franz Baudenbacher Franz Baudenbacher

Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering

Trying to figure out how things work is my success story from early childhood. I remember repairing an old vacuum tube TV in fourth grade by observing which tube glows orange. This childhood restlessness, curiosity, intuition and creativity empowered by an academic education are the basic pillars of my approach to fundamental and translational research in biomedical engineering and the life sciences. The fundamental research is centered on cardiac excitation Franz Baudenbachercontraction coupling. The delicate interplay between excitation, contraction and bioenergetics is distorted in cardiac disease, resulting often in deadly arrhythmias. In my laboratory, we perform measurements across multiple-length scales from single-cell contractility to whole-heart excitability measurements to understand the origin of these arrhythmias. Advanced bioinstrumentation and micro and nanosensors, as well as microfluidics-based Lab-on-a-Chip devices, play key roles and allow us to explore physiology dynamically. The overall goal is the improved biophysical description of the heart to guide the identification of possible therapies for heart failure and ischemia. My translational component is focused on utilizing novel wireless smart health care technologies to improve the diagnosis, management and prevention of diseases such as arrhythmias, heart failure or syncope to
sustain healthy independent living in an aging society.


John Wikswo John Wikswo

Gordon A. Cain University Professor
A. B. Learned Professor of Living State Physics
Professor of Biomedical Engineering
Professor of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics
Professor of Physics
Director of VIIBRE

John Wikswo

 At Vanderbilt, I am an experimental physicist, engineer and physiologist. At home, I'm an electrician, carpenter and plumber. I love to build gadgets and figure out how things work lifelong vocations that overlap with the mission and vision of VIIBRE: to invent tools and develop skills required to understand biological systems across spatiotemporal scales and to focus research using a multidisciplinary approach to microscale engineering and instrumentation for dynamic control and analysis of biological systems. At VIIBRE, we control single cells and small cell populations to probe the complexities of systems biology and Organs-on-a-Chip (OoC). My long-term challenge is to build a hybrid silicon/biological system that generates models and conducts experiments on itself to identify the underlying equations that describe metabolic and signaling dynamics of cellular systems. En route, we are developing OoC control systems using microprocessor-enabled well plates with onboard pumps and valves.


David Merryman David Merryman

Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering
Associate Professor of Medicine
Associate Professor of Pediatrics

David Merryman

Mechanobiology explores how mechanical forces affect cells in order to unravel the mysteries of disease formation and construct engineered tissues in the lab. My interest in mechanobiology grew first out of my passion for engineering mechanics. I was fascinated the first time I saw how pushing or pulling a cell changed the way the cell behaved. As a graduate student pursuing this research, I found the fascinating world of molecular biology with its endless questions. Combining these two areas, I built a lab that spends its days asking new questions about how we can push or pull cells and what these forces do to the biology of the cell. We are primarily motivated by two goals: to figure out how forces contribute to disease conditions and how cells can be manipulated to make new tissues in the lab when we apply forces to them.