Research

Research

Our group integrates tools from biomaterials fabrication, cellular engineering, stem cell and cancer biology, controlled release, 3-D patterning, and mathematical modeling to study the function of healthy and diseased tissues. Our efforts are focused on three main areas: 1) In vivo capture of metastatic cells, 2) Cellular dormancy and activation, and 3) Transport across physiological barriers.

In vivo capture of metastatic cells
A major challenge in cancer treatment is the inability to effectively prevent or treat metastasis of the cancer from the site of origin to other organs. We design biomaterial scaffolds that can be used to capture and destroy metastatic cells for a variety of types of cancer.
 
Cellular dormancy and activation
Throughout the body there are stem cell populations that help maintain tissue homeostasis. These cells typically remain in a dormant state until injury or growth requires their activation to repopulate cells within the tissue. Disseminated cancer cells can also remain dormant at various sites in the body for years before reactivating and causing recurrence of metastatic disease. We aim to understand the mechanisms that control the switch between cellular quiescence and activation, which could have broad implications in translational applications such as mobilizing endogenous stem cells for regenerative therapies and inducing dormancy of disseminated tumor cells to prevent disease recurrence. 
 
Transport across physiological barriers
There are various cellular barriers throughout the body that regulate physiological transport, including the blood-brain barrier, the intestinal epithelial barrier, and skin. Our goal is to use stem cell-based models of these barriers in order to study transport across these barriers in healthy and diseased tissues.