The Darling Lab conducts research in cell mechanics, mesenchymal stem cell differentiation, and musculoskeletal tissue regeneration. Primary focus is on understanding cellular heterogeneity and its effects on both fundamental and translational applications. Central to this pursuit is the study of adult stem cells, particularly the identification of novel biological and mechanical markers. Specific goals include characterizing the mechanophenotype associated with stem cells before, during, and after differentiation along various cell lineages. We accomplish these cell-level experiments primarily using atomic force microscopy (AFM), which allows for high resolution imaging and force measurements at small scales. Biological experiments involve standard cell culture and tissue engineering procedures as well as molecular and biochemical assays. We are also developing novel tools and methodologies for the identification of cellular subpopulations. Our long-term goals are to improve the quality and consistency of stem cell sources such that any downstream application produces better results.