The Engler lab's research is focused on how cell behavior is directed by the extracellular matrix (ECM), a 3-dimensional (3D) fibrillar scaffold to which cells adhere. Investigations in the lab revolve around how the mechanical and biochemical properties of this 3D ECM direct the cell behavior, i.e. mechanobiology. Under this broad conceptual framework, the lab is interested in how mechanobiology influences or misregulates cell function and modifies genetic mechanisms of disease. Specifically, the lab has shown that ECM mechanics can regulate the differentiation of stem cells into specific adult cell types, cause heart cells to contract better/worse with age, and cause cells to transform into cancer and metastasize. To accomplish this, his lab makes natural and synthetic matrices with unique spatiotemporal properties to mimic niche conditions, improve stem cell behavior and commitment in vitro, or direct them for therapeutic use in vivo.
Adam J. Engler is a Professor and Chair of Bioengineering at UC San Diego, where he has been on the faculty since 2008. He also is a resident scientist at the Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine. Dr. Engler previously trained at the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned his PhD studying how ECM stiffness regulated stem cell fate. He also trained as a postdoc at Princeton University's Department of Molecular Biology, funded by the National Cancer Institute. Dr. Engler has received numerous awards in recognition of this research, including awards from the Biomedical Engineering Society, American Society of Matrix Biology, American Society of Mechanical Engineering, and American Society for Engineering Education. Dr. Engler is a fellow of the American Institute for Biomedical Engineering, the Biomedical Engineering Society, and a recipient of an NIH New Innovator Award.