The research in my laboratory focuses on employing engineering fundamentals to study basic questions in vascular stem cell biology and applying these for tissue repair and regeneration and cancer impeding.
Hydrogels provide a highly controlled three-dimensional (3-D) environment that is structurally and biomechanically similar to native extracellular matrix (ECM) and can provide a rich biochemical landscape to influence cell behavior. These 3-D networks, formed by cross-linking polymers, are highly tunable biomaterials fabricated from a wide range of molecules that use various synthesis methods to control cell behavior.
To understand and control vasculogenesis, we develop hydrogels to present ECM cues and study in vitro vascular morphogenesis of mature vascular cells or stem cell derivatives and in vivo angiogenesis of injured and diseased tissues.
Vascular differentiation and maturation
Stem cells aid the growth and repair of blood vessels. Human endothelial progenitors circulate in the bloodstream and can be endogenously triggered to home to injured or diseased sites, such as ischemia or cancer, to form vasculatures. Human pluripotent stem cells derived from the developing embryo or induced isolated from progenitors or mature cells, can differentiate into any cell type of the body. We study the induction and functionality of vascular cell derivatives from progenitor and pluripotent stem cells and their assembly into functional vascular networks.
Variations in oxygen tension in the cellular microenvironment are common both in natural as well as engineered cell cultures, and such changes in oxygen level are known to regulate signaling cascades that lead to metabolic and phenotypic changes. We investigate the functional interactions between hypoxic (low oxygen) pathways and ECM-driven cues that are essential for vascular morphogenesis and network assembly.