Brenton D. Hoffman

Image of Brenton D. Hoffman

Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering

The overall goal of my research program is to utilize an interdisciplinary approach to first advance the basic understanding of mechanotransduction on multiple scales and then use this knowledge to guide the development of new treatments for mechanosensitive diseases. Our work combines principles and techniques from protein engineering, molecular biology, soft matter physics, cell and developmental biology, biomaterials engineering, automated image analysis, and state of the art live cell microscopy. Specifically, we engineer and use biosensors that report the tension across specific proteins in living cells through changes in the color of light they emit. This technology enables dynamic measurements of proteins and sub-cellular structures that are under load. Unlike more traditional techniques that measure the entirety of cellular force output, the ability of these sensors to measure mechanical stress at the molecular level means they are innately compatible with concepts and approaches common in molecular biology and biophysics.

Appointments and Affiliations
  • Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering
  • Assistant Professor in Cell Biology
Contact Information:

  • Ph.D. University of Pennsylvania, 2007

Research Interests:

Dr. Hoffman’s research focuses on understanding, on a molecular level, how mechanical and chemical cues from the environment are detected, integrated, and manipulated by cells to dictate physiological and patho-physiological responses important in vascular biology.


Biological Materials
Polymer and Protein Engineering
Tissue Repair, Tissue Engineering

Courses Taught:
  • BME 302L: Fundamentals of Biomaterials and Biomechanics (AC or GE)
  • BME 394: Projects in Biomedical Engineering (GE)
  • BME 493: Projects in Biomedical Engineering (GE)
  • BME 494: Projects in Biomedical Engineering (GE)
  • BME 527: Cell Mechanics and Mechanotransduction (GE, BB, MC)
  • BME 711S: Biological Engineering Seminar Series (CBIMMS and CBTE)
  • EGR 391: Projects in Engineering
  • ME 717S: Biological Engineering Seminar Series (CBIMMS and CBTE)

Representative Publications: (More Publications)
    • Goguen, B. N. and Hoffman, B. D. and Sellers, J. R. and Schwartz, M. A. and Imperiali, B., Light-Triggered Myosin Activation for Probing Dynamic Cellular Processes, Angewandte Chemie-International Edition, vol 50 no. 25 (2011), pp. 5666-5669.
    • Hoffman, B. D. and Grashoff, C. and Schwartz, M. A., Dynamic molecular processes mediate cellular mechanotransduction, Nature, vol 475 no. 7356 (2011), pp. 316-323 [abs].
    • Grashoff, C.* and Hoffman, B. D.* and Brenner, M. D. and Zhou, R. B. and Parsons, M. and Yang, M. T. and McLean, M. A. and Sligar, S. G. and Chen, C. S. and Ha, T. and Schwartz, M. A., Measuring mechanical tension across vinculin reveals regulation of focal adhesion dynamics, Nature, vol 466 no. 7303 (2010), pp. 263-U143 [abs].
    • Hoffman, B. D. and Crocker, J. C., Cell Mechanics: Dissecting the Physical Responses of Cells to Force, Annual Review of Biomedical Engineering, vol 11 (2009), pp. 259-288 [abs].
    • Hoffman, B. D. and Massiera, G. and Crocker, J. C., Fragility and mechanosensing in a thermalized cytoskeleton model with forced protein unfolding, Physical Review E, vol 76 no. 5 (2007) [abs].
    • Van Citters, K. M. and Hoffman, B. D. and Massiera, G. and Crocker, J. C., The role of F-actin and myosin in epithelial cell rheology, Biophysical Journal, vol 91 no. 10 (2006), pp. 3946-3956 [abs].
    • Hoffman, B. D.* and Massiera, G.* and Van Citters, K. M. and Crocker, J. C., The consensus mechanics of cultured mammalian cells, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol 103 no. 27 (2006), pp. 10259-10264 [abs].
    • Lau, A. W. C. and Hoffman, B. D. and Davies, A. and Crocker, J. C. and Lubensky, T. C., Microrheology, stress fluctuations, and active behavior of living cells, Physical Review Letters, vol 91 no. 19 (2003) [abs].