​B.S.E., Bioengineering, University of Pennsylvania, 1992B.S.Econ., The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, 1992​​Ph.D., Bioengineering, University of California, San Diego, 1996

"Our lab employs a multidisciplinary biomedical engineering approach to understand the relationship between intracellular mechanics and cell function."

Living cells and tissues adapt to their environment by altering structure, gene and protein expression, and biochemical functions. For example, endothelial cells lining the artery wall at the blood tissue interface experience fluid mechanical forces that vary with time and location along the artery. However, the mechanisms by which cells transduce mechanical stimuli into biochemical signals are not well understood. Our laboratory employs a multidisciplinary biomedical engineering approach to understand the relationship between intracellular mechanics and cell function.


  • Harold S. Morton Jr. Undergraduate Teaching Prize 2020
Brian Helmke, award winning professor of BME

BRIAN HELMKE, PH.D. is an associate professor in the department of biomedical engineering and director of undergraduate research for UVA Engineering. He investigates the relationship between cell mechanics and cell function using new tools in materials science and molecular biology, with a focus on cardiovascular disease. 

In the News

Selected Publications

  • Polarized actin structural dynamics in response to cyclic uniaxial stretch., 2015; Cellular and molecular bioengineering. 8(1) 160-177. ABS Huang L, Helmke BP
  • Integration of acoustic radiation force and optical imaging for blood plasma clot stiffness measurement., 2015; PloS one. 10(6) e0128799. ABS Wang CW, Perez MJ, Helmke BP, Viola F, Lawrence MB
  • Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering: A Tipping Point., 2012; Cellular and molecular bioengineering. 5(3) 239-253 ABS Brown G, Butler PJ, Chang DW, Chien S, Clegg RM, Dewey CF, Dong C, Guo XE, Helmke BP, Hess H, Jacobs CR, Kaunas RR, Kumar S, Lu HH, Mathur AB, Mow VC, Schmid-Schönbein GW, Skoracki R, Wang N, Wang Y, Zhu C
  • A Semi-Automatic Method for Image Analysis of Edge Dynamics in Living Cells., 2011; Cellular and molecular bioengineering. 4(2) 205-219. ABS Huang L, Helmke BP,
  • Short-Term Shear Stress Induces Rapid Actin Dynamics in Living Endothelial Cells., 2010; Molecular & cellular biomechanics : MCB. 5(4) 247-258. ABS Choi CK, Helmke BP
  • A stretching device for high-resolution live-cell imaging., 2010; Annals of biomedical engineering. 38(5) 1728-40. ABS Huang L, Mathieu PS, Helmke BP
  • Micropatterned structural control suppresses mechanotaxis of endothelial cells., 2008; Biophysical journal. 95(6) 3066-78. ABS Lin X, Helmke BP
  • Mapping the dynamics of shear stress-induced structural changes in endothelial cells., 2007; American journal of physiology. Cell physiology. 293(5) C1616-26. ABS Mott RE, Helmke BP
  • Peroxynitrite inhibits myofibrillar protein function in an in vitro assay of motility., 2007; Free radical biology & medicine. 44(1) 14-23. ABS Snook JH, Li J, Helmke BP, Guilford WH
  • Designing a nano-interface in a microfluidic chip to probe living cells: challenges and perspectives., 2006; Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 103(17) 6419-24. ABS Helmke BP, Minerick AR
  • Assessment of contractility of purified smooth muscle cells derived from embryonic stem cells., 2006; Stem cells (Dayton, Ohio). 24(7) 1678-88. ABS Sinha S, Wamhoff BR, Hoofnagle MH, Thomas J, Neppl RL, Deering T, Helmke BP, Bowles DK, Somlyo AV, Owens GK
  • Mechanisms of mechanotransduction., 2006; Developmental cell. 10(1) 11-20. ABS Orr AW, Helmke BP, Blackman BR, Schwartz MA

Courses Taught

  • BME 2101 Physiology I
  • BME 3240 Biotransport
  • BME/ECE 4641, BME 7641 Bioelectricity
  • BME 4550 Nanomedicine Lab

Featured Grants & Projects

  • Current Lab Projects

    Several tools are used for investigating cellular mechanotransduction. Expression of green fluorescent protein (GFP) fused to cytoskeletal or other proteins makes it possible to visualize endogenous intracellular structures, and fluorescence probes enable detection of intracellular signaling molecules such as nitric oxide. High-resolution optical sectioning microscopy, deconvolution, and 3-D image restoration provide quantitative spatial and temporal information. Quantitative image analysis tools analyze intracellular movement, molecular interactions, and biochemical response. Nanotechnology-based structures control mechanical stimuli at the length scale of individual protein structures near the cell surface. Engineering nanoscale spatial cues into the cell’s local environment will enable rational design of cell phenotype for regenerative medicine and tissue engineering. Thus, projects in our laboratory bring together a joint biomedical engineering, materials science, and molecular biology approach to understanding cellular physiology.