Bioinspired microtechnologies

Cells integrate signals from neighboring cells, surrounding matrix, soluble factors, and mechanical forces to achieve their normal function. Loss of normal tissue architecture is a hallmark of disease. Understanding how the milieu of extracellular signals affects cell function requires an interdisciplinary approach combining biological methods with engineering tools to precisely control the microenvironment of cells in culture. More specifically, we utilize microengineering tools to control the environment of cells in culture, at the length-scale down to a single cell. Using these techniques, our laboratory seeks to elucidate the cellular mechanisms that underlie processes in tissue regeneration and healing. We are currently focused on understanding how microenvironmental cues regulate innate immune cell function. Our goal is to harness the potential of the immune system to promote host tissue healing and regeneration.

Biomimetic materials

Numerous medical devices are composed of biomaterials that interface directly with host tissue. These include cardiovascular devices, orthopedic implants, and general surgical devices, as well as tissue engineered constructs, encapsulated cell therapies, and biosensors. While significant progress has been made towards improving these technologies, the foreign body response to the implanted material itself remains a significant hurdle in maintaining device longevity and functionality. Our laboratory is developing materials based on biomimetic strategies that specifically target interactions with local immune cells. Our approaches include modification of biochemical as well as physical cues, which modulate innate immune cells and polarize them towards a non-inflammatory and/or pro-healing phenotype. These materials are designed to mitigate inflammation and promote the healing response to implanted biomaterials.

In vivo monitoring

The in vivo response to biomaterial implants or tissue engineered constructs is dynamic and complex. Traditional methods to examine the host response and tissue regeneration has relied on histology, where materials are implanted into several animals that are sacrificed at various time points for evaluation. Recent advances in molecular imaging probes have enhanced our ability to non-invasively visualize dynamic cellular processes within live animals. Our laboratory seeks to better understand tissue regeneration and repair in response to biomaterial implants or tissue engineered constructs by developing methods to visualize the in vivo response.