Welcome to the website of the Vorselen Lab of mechanobiology and quantitative immune cell biology!

What we do

In the Vorselen Lab, we are fascinated by regulation of cell functions by physical forces. We focus on our immune system, where immune cells use forces to guide target selection and enhance target killing. Many immune responses, such as eating (macrophage phagocytosis) and chemical killing (T cell cytotoxicity) of bacterial invaders and damaged or diseased cells, are more efficient for stiff than soft targets. Cancer cells are generally softer than healthy tissue cells, raising the possibility that they use their low rigidity as a means to evade the immune system. We focus both on the detailed mechanisms of regulation by physical forces in immune cells, as well as the consequences in the context of disease (e.g. cancer).

A special focus of our lab is macrophage mechanobiology. Macrophage are often abundantly present in tumors, although often in functions where they help the tumor. Reprogramming and targeting macrophages to induce cancer cell killing is therefore an attractive new therapeutic strategy. Revealing how macrophage responses are affected by physical cues may facilitate the design of novel therapeutics targeting completely new pathways in macrophages. Since the molecular machinery in many immune effector functions is shared, understanding macrophage eating (phagocytotis) may, for example, also gives fundamental insight into other immune cell responses.

Our mechanistic studies focus on how immune cells sense and generate forces, and how they integrate these signals with chemical signals they receive. We develop new biophysical approaches to tune the physical input that cells receive and new methods to measure cellular forces. A key contribution is our development (done during my time with Prof. Julie Theriot) of a “stress ball for the cell”: soft hydrogel microspheres that can be functionalized to trigger a variety of immune responses. They are tunable, uniquely model key physical characteristics of cancer cells (frequently used models are 10 million-fold(!) more rigid than cells), and can be kneaded and squeezed by cells, which renders them as cellular force sensors. We combine these techniques with quantitative microscopy and cellular perturbations (genetic, pharmaceutical) to interrogate how cells sense, and how they adapt their responses to the diverse threats they encounter. Together, this provides an unusual quantitative readout of immune cell behavior and helps us understand the regulation of immune processes by physical forces.

To study the consequences of macrophage mechanobiology in disease, we study how the broader macrophage response (signaling, cross-talk with adaptive immunity) is affected by mechanical input, and the role of macrophage mechanobiology in complex cell systems and (tumor) disease models.

–> For more information see research. Interested in joining, see join!



23/04 New paper out! We are excited to have been able to contribute to the fantastic work of Sonal Joshi and Federica Benvenuti (and others) on the role of phospatidylserine-receptor TIM4 on macrophage cross-presentation during tumorigenesis. Read it here.

07/02 Happy to have been able to make a small contribute to the work of Fabrizio Pennachio and others from the Paolo Maiuri lab on a new method to measure cytoplasmic and nuclear volume. Read it here.

01/02 Two new MSc students started. Welcome to Niels van Ingen en Prasith Prakash!


02/12 Daan is co-organizing the subgroup “The Mechanoimmunology of Movement and Manipulation” with Morgan Huse at the ASCB meeting in Boston! Join this interesting session!

04/09 Yakun and Natalia are starting their MSc thesis projects on the role of RAGE in phagocytosis and NK cell activation!

04/09 Cresci-Anne will be starting a project on the role of RAGE in phagocytosis as part of a collaboration with Gosia Teodorowicz.

12/07 Daan is giving a seminar at the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen (RUG).

06/07 Time flies! Stijn is the first student to finish his MSc thesis and leave the lab. Thanks Stijn!

08/05 Youri joined! He is starting a research practice together with the lab of Siddharth Desphande.

02-05 Daan joined the organizing committee of the 2025 EMBO ImmunoBiophysics conference. Grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this fantastic conference!

09/04 – 14/04 Daan is speaking at the EMBO ImmunoBiophysics conference in les Houches, France.

20/02 Niek Frijlink and Anne Josten started their MSc thesis projects in the lab!

09/01 Stijn Hanssen is the first MSc thesis student to join the lab!


25/10 New review article out! Read all about the involved receptors and engulfment dynamics during uptake of apoptotic (dying) cells.

21/09 New article online! Part of a great ongoing collaboration with Mira Krendel, Nils Gauthier and Sarah Barger. This one shows how different classes of motor proteins keep each other in balance, and has perhaps the best phagocytosis movie (I may be biased)! See for yourself here

15/09 Daan is speaking at the EMBO meeting: Phagocytosis of dying cells in Ghent.

01/08 We’ve started! Grateful and excited for this opportunity.

31/07 New preprint online! Part of a fantastic collaboration with Michael Bassik and Roarke Kamber. We reveal unexpected and strange dynamics of phagocytosis, and we performed a CRISPR screen that establishes new regulators of phagocytosis!