Scot C. Kuo, Ph.D.

Headshot of Scot C. Kuo
  • Director of Imaging, Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences
  • Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering

Research Interests

Laser-based imaging and bioinstrumentation; Nanoscale biophysics; Actin-based protrusion and cell motility; Mechanical functions of cells more


Dr. Scot Kuo is an associate professor of biomedical engineering and cell biology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. His research focuses on mechanical functions of cells actin-based protrusion and cell motility, nanoscale biophysics, laser-based imaging and bioinstrumentation. Dr. Kuo also serves as the director of the School of Medicine Microscope Facility and the director of imaging at the Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences at Johns Hopkins University.

Dr. Kuo invents, develops and applies custom laser-based optical instrumentation with high-resolution microscopy imaging. His current efforts cover developing “super-resolution” technologies that give near-molecule-level images of fluorescently labeled proteins within cells and developing multiphoton fluorescence for deeper penetration and more sensitive imaging within living tissues. Dr. Kuo’s cell mechanics research group has created laser-based microscopy techniques to monitor the way cells change shape and exert force.

Dr. Kuo received his undergraduate degree in biochemistry from Harvard University and earned his Ph.D. in biochemistry from University of California, Berkeley. He completed a predoctoral fellowship at University of California, Berkeley, and postdoctoral fellowships at Washington University in St. Louis and Duke University Medical Center. Dr. Kuo joined the Johns Hopkins faculty in 1993.

He is a member of the American Society for Cell Biology, Biophysical Society and Biomedical Engineering Society and serves as a reviewer of many journals including Journal of Cell Biology and Journal of Biological Chemistry. more


  • Director of Imaging, Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences
  • Director, Microscope Facility
  • Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering
  • Associate Professor of Cell Biology

Departments / Divisions

Centers & Institutes


Additional Training

  • Duke Medical Center, Durham, NC, 1993, Cell Biology; Washington University, St. Louis, MO, 1991, Cell Biology; University of California, Berkeley, CA, 1988

Research & Publications

Research Summary

Dr. Kuo develops new technologies/methodologies and uses a multidisciplinary approach to understand the mechanical functions of cells.

As a graduate student studying bacterial chemotaxis, he used both molecular analysis of a fla operon and video-tracking hardware/software that he built to analyze switching statistics of the flagellar motor complex. As a post-doctoral fellow, he used biochemical purification/reconstitution and optical tweezers that he built, and achieved the first force measurements of the microtubule motor, kinesin, as individual molecules. As faculty, he’s built other optical instruments, including laser-deflection particle-tracking microrheology, to understand reconstituted actin-based motility and mechanics of cultured cells.

Dr. Kuo’s projects include developing instrumentation and biochemical methodology for single-molecule (TIRF) and super-resolution (PALM) imaging of reconstituted actin-based motility.


The Kuo Lab is refining single-molecule detection techniques, super-resolution microscopy, multiphoton microscopy and correlative light-electron microscopy.

By using novel optical tools, the Kuo Lab’s goals are to understand cell motility and the regulation of cell shape. Regulating cell shape is important for many essential functions, including immunological defense. They have pioneered laser-based nanotechnologies, including optical tweezers, nanotracking and laser-tracking microrheology. Its applications range from physics, pharmaceutical delivery by phagocytosis (cell and tissue engineering), bacterial pathogens important in human disease and cell division.

The Kuo lab’s cell mechanics research group has created laser-based microscopy techniques to monitor the way cells change shape and exert force. They discovered molecule-sized nano-stepping of bacterial pathogens undergoing actin-based cell motility, which is a fundamental process for most cells.

Learn more about

Lab Website: Advanced Optics Lab

Selected Publications

View all on PubMed

Cockburn IA, Amino R, Kelemen RK, Kuo SC, Tse SW, Radtke A, Mac-Daniel L, Ganusov VV, Zavala F, Ménard R. “In vivo imaging of CD8+ T cell-mediated elimination of malaria liver stages.” Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 May 28;110(22):9090-5. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1303858110

Yamanaka S, Campbell NR, An F, Kuo SC, Potter JJ, Mezey E, Maitra A, Selaru FM. “Coordinated effects of microRNA-494 induce G₂/M arrest in human cholangiocarcinoma.”Cell Cycle. 2012 Jul 15;11(14):2729-38. doi: 10.4161/cc.21105.

DeRose R, Pohlmeyer C, Umeda N, Ueno T, Nagano T, Kuo S, Inoue T. “Spatio-temporal manipulation of small GTPase activity at subcellular level and on timescale of seconds in living cells.” J Vis Exp. 2012 Mar 9;(61). pii: 3794. doi: 10.3791/3794.

Fisher CI, Kuo SC. “Filament rigidity causes F-actin depletion from nonbinding surfaces.” Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 Jan 6;106(1):133-8. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0804991106.

Reichl EM, Ren Y, Morphew MK, Delannoy M, Effler JC, Girard KD, Divi S, Iglesias PA, Kuo SC, Robinson DN. “Interactions between myosin and actin crosslinkers control cytokinesis contractility dynamics and mechanics.” Curr Biol. 2008 Apr 8;18(7):471-80. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2008.02.056.

Activities & Honors


  • Keynote speaker, Annual Meeting of American Society for Biomechanics, 1991
  • Phi Beta Kappa, Harvard University chapter, 1982
  • Fellow, Jane Coffin Childs Memorial Fund for Medical Research, 1989 - 1992
  • Robert B. Pond Sr. Excellence in Teaching Award, Johns Hopkins University, 2001
  • Plenary speaker, 2005
  • Predoctoral fellow, National Science Foundation, 1982 - 1985
  • Magna cum laude with Highest Honors in Biochemistry, 1982


  • American Society for Cell Biology
  • Biomedical Engineering Society
  • Biophysical Society

Professional Activities

  • Ad hoc reviewer, National Institutes of Health, 1996
  • Reviewer, Biophysical Journal
  • Reviewer, American Journal of Physiology
  • Reviewer, Journal of Cell Biology
  • Reviewer, Journal of Biological Chemistry
  • Reviewer, Nature
  • Reviewer, Nature Cell Biology
  • Reviewer, Science
  • Special reviewer, National Science Foundation, 1992

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