Tissue architectures span numerous lengthscales. Add to that their dynamic nature and you have amazingly complex systems.
All tissues have well-defined structure that spans from the nanoscale through the macroscale. They not only possess such exquisite patterning, but they are inherently dynamic in nature. If we wish to use materials to seamlessly interface with such elegant structures and direct their behavior, we need to add new capabilities and understanding to our toolset.
The Main Areas
We have been interfacing materials with biology for hundreds of years, with examples ranging from crude dentures from circa 700 BC to modern brain-machine interfaces. Despite a fundamental desire to use materials to augment biological deficiencies, there is much we do not understand regarding how to design seamless biotic-abiotic interfaces and enable true biological integration of synthetic devices. Using strategies derived from recent advances in nanotechnology and materials science, we focus on developing new materials and devices that enable us to both direct and monitor the collective group behavior of cells over time.
Using tools and materials developed within the lab, we aim to elucidate fundamental insights into a variety of biological processes. We are especially interested in understanding how to dynamically modulate tissue repair, with the goal of addressing a variety of deficiencies and defects. For instance, diabetic foot ulcers are one of the most debilitating and deadly complications of diabetes. Ulcers that don't heal carry a lower 5-year survival rate than breast and prostate cancer, and score lower on quality of life studies than diabetes-induced blindness and kidney failure. We are interested in methods for manipulating signalling networks within diabetic ulcers to drive successful healing.
We are interested in using the technology and understanding develped in our lab to address many areas related to tissue repair. For instance, we are interested in understanding how to direct in vivo differentiation of stem cells and improve long-term functional engraftment. Furthermore, we are intrigued by how tumors dynamically modulate their local microenvironments, how they use fundamental mechanisms from wound healing to grow and spread, and ideas focused around the priming of pre-metastatic niches.