The overall goal of the Engineered Cellular Microenvironments (ECM) Lab is to understand how intercellular interactions and mechanical stimulation impact cellular phenotypes in carcinogenesis and homeostasis of tissue specific cells, by creating and utilizing specific engineered microenvironments. Our group’s research focuses on various implications of biochemical intercellular interactions (cell-cell or cell-matrix interactions) and mechanical stimuli (via matrix stiffness and applied mechanical forces such as tension, compression and shear stress), in pathophysiology (ovarian and breast cancer carcinogenesis) and homeostasis.
Mechanical forces as well as intercellular interactions play a critical role in the regulation of cellular function (such as growth, differentiation, migration, gene expression, protein synthesis, apoptosis) under normal physiological, as well as, pathophysiological conditions on multiple scales. Defining specific mechanisms by which these biochemical and mechanical cues are sensed by cells and how these stimuli lead to specific cellular responses is likely to help elucidate the intricacies of stem cell function, cancer progression, and to design better materials for cell and tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. Our group believes that these goals can be met by creating engineered microenvironments based on novel biomaterials and microfluidic technologies. The novelty of our approach is in the integration of physiologically relevant in vitro tissue engineering based biomaterial platforms with in vivo animal models to gain multiscale molecular-, cellular- and tissue-level understanding of cell-cell or cell-matrix interactions and mechanical stimuli mediated biological events.
Our lab uses biomaterials and microtechnology as tools to create engineered microenvironments in order to study biological problems in the areas of ovarian cancer, breast cancer, and bone marrow stem cells. Our research strengths are in the areas of cancer microenvironments, stem cell engineering, tissue regeneration, microfluidics, biomechanics, biomaterials, tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. We are leveraging these strengths to develop strong collaborations with our colleagues who are working on various facets of materials science and biology, to together make significant contributions in the fields of tissue engineering, regenerative medicine, as well as, drug development and delivery. We are building a research group that emphasizes both fundamental as well as applied research, and involves extensive multidisciplinary and interdepartmental collaboration.