Assistant Professor

Office Information:

4009 Thurston Bowles
UNC Chapel Hill


B.S. - Biological Engineering, Cornell University
S.M. - Mechanical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Ph.D. - Mechanical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Postdoctoral Fellowship - NIH Postdoctoral Fellow at The Wyss Institute at Harvard University and Biomedical Engineering at Boston University



Lab Site:


Research and Publications:

Primary Research Area: Biomedical Microdevices

Secondary Research Area: Regenerative Medicine

Research Interests: Biomimetic microsystems; cellular mechanotransduction; microfluidics; vascular tissue engineering; tumor cell migration; modeling the tumor microenvironment; interstitial flow

Research: Dr. Polacheck’s laboratory investigates the physical interactions between cells and their environment and how forces at the cellular scale contribute to tissue development, homeostasis, and disease. To study how cells sense and generate forces in living tissue, the Polacheck lab develops microfluidic technology to build microtissues in the laboratory that mimic the architecture and multicellular function of human tissues in vivo. By integrating these organ-on-chip models with genome editing, induced-pluripotent stem cell technology, and other cell and molecular biology techniques, the Polacheck lab has developed a novel approach for understanding the molecular machinery employed by cells to generate force sand to transduce forces from their environment into biological responses. The lab seeks to leverage these biological insights to inform novel drug targets for diseases in which misregulation of cellular forces contribute to pathogenesis, such vascular disease, cancer, and fibrosis. Furthermore, the lab works to translate the technology and techniques developed to build microtissues into tissue engineered therapies for organ replacement and regenerative medicine.

Publications: Click here for full list of Publications

Selected publications:
1. Polacheck, W.J.*, Kutys, M.L.*, Yang, J., Eyckmans, J.E., Wu, Y., Vasa vada, H., Hirschi, K.K., and Chen, C.S. “A non-canonical Notch signaling complex regulates adherens junctions and endothelial barrier function .” Nature. [In Press].
2. Polacheck, W.J., Charest, J.L., and Kamm, R.D. (2011) "Interstitial flow influences tumor cell migration through competing mechanisms." Proc. Nat. Acad. Sciences. USA. 108(27): 11115-11120. PMCID: PMC3131352
3. Polacheck, W.J., German, A.E., Mammoto, A., Ingber, D.E., and Kamm, R. D. (2014) “Mechanotransduction of fluid stresses governs 3D cell migration.” Proc. Nat. Acad. Sciences. USA. 111(7): 2447-2452. PMCID: PMC3932905.
4. Scarcelli, G., Polacheck, W.J., Nia, H.T., Grodzinsky, A.J., Kamm, R.D ., Yun, S.H. (2015) “Noncontact three-dimensional mapping of intracellular hydro-mechanical properties by Brillouin microscopy.” Nature Methods 12(12): 1132-1134. PMCID: PMC4666809.
5. Hinson, J.T., Chopra, A.C., Nafissi, N., Polacheck, W.J., Benson, C.C. , Swist, S., Gorham, J., Yang, L., Schafer, S., Hubner, N., Church, G., Cook, S.A., Linke, W.A., Chen, C.S., Seidman, J.G., Seidman, C.E. (2015) “Sarcomere insufficiency in an iPS model of dilated cardiomyopathy from titin mutations.” Science 349 (6251): 982-986. PMCID: PMC46183 16.
6. Polacheck, W.J. and Chen, C.S. (2016) “Measuring cell-generated forces: a guide to the available tools.” Nature Methods 13(5): 41 5-423. PMCID: PMC5474291.
7. Chopra, A. Kutys, M.L., Zhang, K., Polacheck, W.J., Sheng, C., Eyckman s, J., Seidman, J.G., Seidman, C.E., Hinson, J.T., Chen, C.S. “Force generation via β-cardiac myosin, titin, and α-actinin drives cardiac sarcomere assembly from focal adhesions.” Developmental Cell. [In Press].
8. Abbas, Y., Oefner, C.M., Polacheck, W.J., Gardner, L., Farrell, L., Sharkey, A., Kamm, R.D., Moffett, A., Oyen, M.L. (2017) “A microfluidics assay to study invasion of human placental trophoblast cells.�€ J. R. Soc. Interface 14(13): 20170131. PMCID: PMC454302.
9. Trappmann, B., Baker, B.M., Polacheck, W.J., Choi, C.K., Burdick, J.A., Chen, C.S. (2017) “Matrix degradability controls multicellularity of 3D cell migration.” Nat. Commun. 8(1):371. PMCID: PMC5575316.
10. Alimperti, S., Mirabella, T., Bajaj, V., Polacheck, W.J., Ward, D., D uffield, J.D., Assoian, R., Chen, C.S. (2017) “Three-dimensional bi omimetic vascular model reveals a RhoA, Rac1, and N-cadherin balance in mur al cell-endothelial cell-regulated barrier function.” Proc. Nat. Ac ad. Sciences. USA. 114(33):8758-8763. PMCID: PMC5565405.