Division of Bioengineering and Bioinformatics Graduate School of Information Science and Technology, Hokkaido University | Bioengineering and Bioinformatics Course Department of Electronics and Information Engineering School of Engineering, Hokkaido University


Cellular and Tissue Engineering

Laboratory outline

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Cell is the basic unit of life. Cells have been extensively investigated in biology but also in engineering. In our laboratory, the spatiotemporal behaviors of cell structures and cell functions are investigated from physics and information science points of view.

Recent studies have revealed that cell functions are strongly associated with mechanical properties of cells. To clarify the detailed relationship between cell structure and cell function, we investigate how cells feel forces and behave in response to external forces by using bio-nanotechnology such as scanning probe microscopy and related techniques. Especially, we are interested in how and why such a cell physical property has a large cell-to-cell variation, so that the degree of cell heterogeneities is precisely measured. Elucidation of the origin of cell-to-cell variability is clue to exploring what is life, e.g., how cells communicate cooperatively each other.

Atomic force microscopy allows us to measure cell shape and cell stiffness precisely and stimulate cells mechanically to detect various kinds of cellular information related to external forces.

Various types of cells such as the normal and cancer cells and fluorescence protein cells are cultured to be used for experiments.

Introduction of research content

Major current research themes are:

  1. Single cell diagnostics to distinguish between normal and abnormal cells
  2. Characterization of physical properties of cell sheets for tissue engineering
  3. Quantification of transfer functions for cell-cell communication and intracellular communication and its application to integrated cell devices
  4. Controlling cell structure, cell function and cell migration using nanolithography techniques
  5. High precision and high speed measurements of cells by scanning probe microscopy

By exploiting atomic force microscopy, optical measurement techniques and microfabrication techniques, physical properties of cells as a material, from single cells to tissue, are investigated.

Research examples

Atomic force microscope (AFM) enables to measure contact forces between the sample and the AFM tip. We develop a new AFM combined with microarray substrates for distinguishing between normal and abnormal cells.

Cell structure and function can be controlled using microfabricated substrates, but little is known about the underlying principle that cells follow. To clarify the universal features of cells, we precisely measure the structure and function of cells cultured on microfabricated substrates,

Cell sheets are cell monolayer, which is peeled off from the substrates on which cells are cultured. Cell sheets are indispensable for tissue engineering and next-generation functional bio-material. We characterize the spatiotemporal behaviors of cell sheets and attempt to modify cell functions in cell sheets.

Cells communicate their surrounding cells through chemical and physical interactions. When cells are integrated as a device like an integrated electronic device, detailed understanding of how signal regarding cell information is transferred among cells is necessary. We directly measure and quantify cell transfer functions, which are the basis for designing integrated cell materials.

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Examples of research equipment

Atomic force microscope (AFM, Asylum Research)

Ionic conductance microscope (including atomic force microscope features, Park Systems)

Optical microscope system (time-lapse, manipulation, confocal microscope system, Nikon TiE)

Cell culture room


  • Associate Professor: Takaharu Okajima
  • Administrative Assistant: 1; Researcher: 1
  • Doctoral students: 3; master’s students: 9; undergraduates: 3

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Knowledge and technologies that will be useful in the future

Technologies and knowledge necessary for bionanotechnology

  • Cell culture
  • Optical microscopic techniques
  • Scanning probe microscopy (atomic force microscopy, ionic conductance microscopy, etc.)
  • Microfabrication techniques (nanolithography)

Data analysis/device control

  • MATLAB and Igor are used to analyze and estimate experimental data. LabVIEW is used to control measurement device and to analyze data.
  • Analog circuits and FPGA are used to develop a digital-controlled nanometrological system.

People who are interested in these key words, please visit this laboratory.

Bionanotechnology, cell engineering, biophysics, cell diagnostics, cell communication,, cell sheet, cell mechanics, cell measurement, tissue engineering, atomic force microscopy, scanning probe microscopy, optical microscopy, optical measurement technology


Address: Graduate School of Information Science and Technology, Hokkaido University
Kita 14-jo, Nishi 9-chome, Kita-ku, Sapporo, 060-0814
Tel.: 011-706-7698

*Contact by e-mail: Takaharu Okajima (okajima@ist.hokudai.ac.jp)

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