Engineering cell shape

Cellular shape is a fundamental signal for proliferation, potently regulates cell growth and physiology, and is indicative of specific functions. Membrane protrusions influence cell shape and are highly relevant for adhesion, migration, and rigidity sensing. Specific cell shapes also determine the direction, in which a dividing cell spatially places its daughter cell.

In our ongoing work, we are engineering specific cell shapes using microcontact printing (μCP)  and custom-designed adhesive micro-patterned surfaces to better understand how musculoskeletal tissue architecture is lost during degenerative processes such as seen in osteoarthritis.

Controlling cellular shape will likely play an important role in understanding and engineering biomaterials with cell shape-instructive properties for future applications in regenerative medicine.


Shaping the cell and the future: recent advancements in biophysical aspects relevant to regenerative medicine. Hart ML, Lauer JC, Selig M, Hanak M, Walters B, Rolauffs B. Invited review. J. Funct. Morphol. Kinesiol. 2018, 3(1), 2; doi:10.3390/jfmk3010002. (This article belongs to the Special Issue Selected Papers from TERMIS European Chapter Meeting 2017 on “Biomechanics, Morphology and Imaging”).

Understanding Osteoarthritis: how do cells lose their orientation during cell proliferation? Doctoral thesis, S Herrmann; supervisor, B Rolauffs. Medical faculty, Eberhard Karls University Tübingen, 2017

Steering the differentiation of mesenchymal stromal cells by generating defined cell geometries. Master thesis, S Bast; supervisor, B Rolauffs. Faculty of Science, Eberhard Karls University Tübingen, 2016

Microcontact printing of cellular adhesion points with defined geometries for biomechanical applications. Master thesis, J Weber, supervisors, B Rolauffs & A Boccaccini. Institute for Biomaterials, University of Erlangen Nuremberg, 2016

Meet the team

Professor Bernd Rolauffs, M.D.

Director of the G.E.R.N. Research Center

Section Head, Translational Medicine for Cell-Based Therapies

Univ.-Professor in Tissue Replacement

Dept. of Orthopedics and Trauma Surgery, Freiburg University Medical Center


Habilitation at the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen

Doctor in Medicine, Medical School in Münster, Germany


Dept. of Biochemistry, Rush University, Chicago, USA

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Center for Biomedical Engineering, Boston, USA

Orthopedic RESIDENCY

Tübingen University Medical Center and BG Trauma Center Tübingen, Germany

Münster University Medical Center, Germany

Sunderland Royal Hospital, UK