Soft tissues are water-containing, mechanically functional tissues in the body, or engineered neotissues. Examples include cartilage and skin. Soft tissue cells typically produce and maintain an extracellular matrix composed of specialized molecules. When soft tissues are stretched or compressed, cell biological activities can change dramatically (mechanotransduction) in health and disease. Ultimately, mechanotransduction represents cell responses to their microphysical environments, which can include mechanical, chemical, and electrical phenomena within cells and in the extracellular matrix. This research program aims to better understand these phenomena, to improve prevention, detection, and treatment of soft tissue diseases, and for development of cell-based biomedical technologies.
This laboratory is currently seeking graduate students for research projects including
• Cell Growth on Extendable Substrates : Growing cells on an elastomer allows for increase of culture surface area as cell population increases. This reduces the need for enzyme-mediated passaging, and improves the quality of cells for tissue engineering.
• Molecular Engineering of Adhesion/Release Proteins : Surface modification proteins will be designed and tested for applications with cell growth on extendable substrates. They must promote cell adhesion but also facilitate release when desired.
• Solute Transport in Compressed Cartilage : Diffusion and convection of solutes in cartilage underlies tissue physiology, mechanotransduction, and drug delivery. We will custom-make fluorescent solutes to explore transport in dynamically compressed tissue.
• Mechanical Injury of Cartilage : We are exploring putative treatments for acute mechanical injuries of articular cartilage, with an aim to inhibit or prevent the progression to the long-term degradation of osteoarthritis.