475739 Harnessing the Power of the Extracellular Matrix to Control Wound Healing and Tissue Regeneration

Sunday, November 13, 2016
Continental 4 & 5 (Hilton San Francisco Union Square)
Whitney L. Stoppel, Chemical Engineering, Tufts University, Medford, MA

Research Interests:

Complications arising from current therapies and the increasing prevalence of disease necessitate the development of novel biomaterials for tissue engineering applications. The next generation of materials entering the clinic for cardiac applications includes biomaterials derived from decellularized cardiac extracellular matrix (ECM). While current in vivo investigations performed by our labs and others have shown the potential for these materials in vivo, the mechanisms by which these materials lead to improved patient prognosis are widely unknown. Classically, the concept of immune response to biomaterials has focused on the negative aspects of a foreign body response. My current postdoctoral work has led to the evaluation of composite silk-cardiac ECM patches for use in the treatment of heart disease. Specific investigations have focused on the role developmental tissue age plays in decellularized ECM composition, immunomodulation, and induced cell response. Using extensive data collected from RNA-SEQ and proteomics evaluation, the future work of the Stoppel laboratory surrounds the hypothesis that ECM proteins and peptides have the ability to modulate host response to biomaterials and wound healing cascades. The long-term goal of the laboratory will be to develop methods and strategies to better understand the biological mechanisms by which these responses occur. Our work will support the development of biomaterials that actively modulate immune response in a controllable and predictable fashion to rapidly advance the development and subsequent utilization of these naturally-derived materials in patients.

To accomplish these goals, we will aim to elucidate the mechanisms of host response to decellularized ECM-containing biomaterials under both healthy and diseased states, focusing on how the wound healing cascade varies in response to biomaterial formulations and ECM composition. A specific emphasis will be placed on therapeutic applications for muscle-based tissues to further advance the fields of cardiac tissue engineering, treatments for muscular dystrophies, and replacements for defects in soft muscle tissue. Students will have the opportunity for interdisciplinary training, as developing new materials requires bioreactor development and optimization via engineering strategies and computational modeling, material property evaluation, and assessment and optimization of designed platforms via traditional biological assays. The interdisciplinary nature of the group will necessitate strong collaborations, particularly with clinicians and immunologists, that will further enrich this training environment. In addition, the Stoppel laboratory will have a focus on development of a diverse group of engineers with strong communication and interpersonal skills to aid in career advancement and contribution to the scientific community.

My own training has included work with alginate hydrogels and cell encapsulation during my PhD in Prof. Susan Roberts’ lab at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, along with postdoctoral training in the laboratories of Profs. David Kaplan and Lauren Black at Tufts University, developing new composite natural materials using silk fibroin and decellularized ECM for cardiac applications.

Teaching Interests:  

In the Spring of 2016, I taught Honors 101: Artificial Organs and Prosthetics at UMass Boston as the professor on record as a part of my NIH IRACDA postdoctoral fellowship through the Training in Education and Critical Research Skills (TEACRS) Program at Tufts University. In addition, I have particiated in many workshops and short courses related to diversity and engagement in the classroom, and I hope to have a positive impact on the education of both graduate and undergraduate students. As a fundamentally trained chemical engineer with a focus on biomaterials and bioreactor design, I am excited to teach courses related to materials and energy balances, transport, reaction kinetics, reactor design, biomedical applications, or polymers/materials science.

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