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Kenneth A Barbee, PhD

Kenneth A. Barbee, PhD

Professor, Senior Associate Dean, and Associate Dean for Research
School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems

Office: Bossone 714
Phone: 215.895.1335
Website: Cellular Biomechanics Laboratory


The focus of my research is the response of cells and tissues to mechanical loading. In the cardiovascular system, I am interested in mechanotransduction mechanisms responsible for the endothelial cell response to flow. The areas of expertise I have brought to bear on this problem are: Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) of living cells in culture to measure the three-dimensional surface topography Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) to calculate shear stress distributions by simulating flow over the surface geometries measured by AFM cell-culture models for applying shear stress to endothelial monolayers. I am also interested in the response of medial smooth muscle cells to the cyclic stretching that occurs in vivo due to the blood pulse. I have developed cell-culture models for applying a biaxial stretch to cultured cells while recording their responses by fluorescence microscopy techniques. In addition to the responses to physiological mechanical stimuli, I am also interested in the response of neural and vascular tissue to the extreme loading conditions associated with traumatic injury. The goals of this work are to establish cellular injury criteria that can be used in the development of protective equipment and to provide an injury model in which the mechanical insult is precisely controlled, the cellular response is measured, and the ability of therapeutic agents to mitigate the injury can be evaluated. My teaching interests include cellular biomechanics, biological elasticity and viscoelasticity, cellular imaging, mechanics of cell adhesion and locomotion, and mathematical modeling of cellular processes.


  • PhD, Bioengineering, University of Pennsylvania, 1991
  • MS, Bioengineering, University of Pennsylvania, 1988
  • BS, Engineering Science and Mechanics, University of Tennessee, 1986

Research Interests

Cellular biomechanics of neural and vascular injury, mechanotransduction in the cardiovascular system, mechanical control of growth and development for wound healing and tissue engineering


DiMilla PA, K Barbee, and DA Lauffenburger. "A Mathematical Model for the Effects of Adhesion and Mechanics on Cell Locomotion.? Biophys. J. 60:15-37 (1991).

Barbee KA, PF Davies, and R Lal. ?Shear Stress-induced Reorganization of the Surface Topography of Living Endothelial Cells Imaged by Atomic Force Microscopy.? Circ. Res. 74:163-171 (1994).

Barbee KA, EJ Macarak, and LE Thibault. ?Strain Measurements In Cultured Vascular Smooth Muscle Cells Subjected to Mechanical Deformation.? Ann. Biomed. Eng. 22:14-22 (1994).

Davies PF and KA Barbee. ?Endothelial Cell Surface Imaging: Insights Into Hemodynamic Force Transmission And Transduction.? News In Physiol. Sci. 9:153-157 (1994).

Barbee KA, T Mundel, R Lal, and PF Davies. ?Sub-Cellular Distribution of Shear Stress at the Surface of Flow-Aligned and Nonaligned Endothelial Monolayers.? Am. J. Physiol. 268: H1765-H1772 (1995).

Davies PF, KA Barbee, R Lal, A Robotewskyj, and ML Griem. ?Hemodynamics and Atherogenesis: Endothelial Surface Dynamics in Flow Signal Transduction.? Ann. NY Acad. Sci. 748:86-103 (1995).

Davies PF, T Mundel, and KA Barbee. ?A Mechanism for Heterogeneous Endothelial Responses to Flow In Vivo and In Vitro.? J. Biomech. 28(12): 1553-1560 (1995).

Barbee KA, JA Morrow, and SC Meredith. ?Deconvolution of Gel Filtration Chromatographs of Human Plasma Lipoproteins.? Anal. Biochem. 231: 301-308 (1995).

Barbee KA. ?Changes in Surface Topography in Endothelial Monolayers with Time at Confluence: Influence on Subcellular Shear Stress Distribution Due to Flow.? Biochem. Cell Biol. 73: 501-505 (1995).

Davies, PF, KA Barbee, MV Volin, A Robotewskyj, J Chen, L Joseph, ML Griem, MN Wernick, E Jacobs, DC Polacek, N DePaola, and AI Barakat. ?Spatial Relationships in Early Signaling Events of Flow-mediated Endothelial Mechanotransduction.? t. Ann. Rev. Physiol. 59: 527-49 (1997).

Barbee, KA, J Yazdi, B Abai, S Croul, R Fijan, and LE Thibault ?An In Vivo Model for the Acute Response of Neural Tissue to Traumatic Loading.?, International Research Council on the Biokinetics of Impact pp. 95-105 (1999).

Blackman, BR, KA Barbee, and LE Thibault. ?In Vitro Cell Shearing Device to Investigate the Dynamic Response of Cells in a Controlled Hydrodynamic Environment.? Ann. Biomed. Engin. 28: 263-272 (2000).

Blackman, BR, LE Thibault, and KA Barbee. ?Selective Modulation of Endothelial Cell [Ca2+]i Response to Flow by the Onset Rate of Shear Stress.? . J. Biomech. Engin. 122(3): 274-282 (2000).

Blackman, BR, TN Tulenko, and KA Barbee. ?Cholesterol Enrichment Suppresses Endothelial Cell Intracellular Calcium Mobilization in Response to Mechanical Stimulation.? Arterioscler. Thromb. Vasc. Biol. (Submitted, 2001).

Barbee, KA, AB Bhavnani, and EJ Macarak. ?An In Vitro Model of Vascular Smooth Muscle Injury During Angioplasty.? J. Appl. Physiol. (Submitted, 2001)

Barbee, KA ?The Role of Spatial Gradients of Shear Stress on the Endothelial Response to Flow in Atherogenesis.? Invited Review in Special Issue of Ann. Biomed. Engin. on ?Biomechanical Approaches to Atherosclerosis? Ed. Morton Friedman (to appear 2001).