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Optogenetic interrogation of cell-cell interaction

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Mechanical signals, such as forces or stiffness, are crucial to many biological rocesses over a range of length scales. This project aims at studying how one cell’s contractility impact its neighbor. To this end, this project combines cutting edge technologies mechanobiology with recent advances in optogenetics. On one hand, traction force microscopy allows for measuring the forces generated by precisely confined doublets of cells. On the other hand, the use of photosensitive-ArhGEF11 fibroblasts allows for a precise spatio-temporal control of one cell forces from the inside, as ArhGEF11 is a major regulator of cellular contractility. This challenging internship will provide a highly interdisciplinary training, as the student will learn raised skills in different aspects of bioengineering, from materials science to fundamental biology and biophysics.

A major focus of this project consists in investigating the influence of several parameters (cell shape, intercellular junction size, energy of stimulation) that might impact the response of a cell to its neighbor contractility.

Our approach involves the use of micropatterns on soft hydrogels for guiding cell adhesion and shape. Using this technique, we are able to measure both fine-scale cytoskeletal organization and cell-generated forces. The contractility of one cell will be modulated by optogenetics, i.e. light stimulation of a protein regulating cell contractility. The micropatterns will be fabricated by photo-patterning of polyacrylamide gels. The cell-generated forces will be assessed by traction force microscopy. The characterization of the cell response to stimulation will be done by using a digital micro- mirror device (DMD) to control the shape of the stimulating light.

Location :
The candidate will work at the Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Physics (LIPhy), in the MOTIV team (Materials, Optics and Instrumental Techniques for the Life Sciences).
LIPhy :

Profile & requested skills :

5th year engineering school student and / or Master student whose training focuses primarily on biophysics, tissue engineering, biology and biomaterials.
We are looking for highly motivated scientists with an aptitude for teamwork and good communication skills in oral and written English.

Subject could be continued with a PhD thesis.

Allowance :
Internship allowance will be provided ( 500€/month)

Please send a CV + a cover letter (including names/contact email of 2 referees) + the record of your grades of the 2 past academic years (2015/2016 & 2016/2017) to

Martial Balland ( and

Thomas Boudou (

Cell interaction