Our laboratory studies how solid and fluid mechanics affect the integrity of the blood-brain barrier, and we use this information to discover new treatments for neurovascular diseases and to develop scaffolds for central nervous system regeneration.
Our list of publications can be found here:
Our laboratory has developed several models that mimic aspects of blood vessels in the brain. We use this model, which can be exposed to varying levels of fluid flow rate and pressures, to study how changes in blood flow affect the integrity of the blood-brain barrier. Specifically, our research seeks to understand how the endothelial cells in the brain sense and respond to "disturbed" fluid flow at the site of vascular bifurcations. We use techniques that include microparticle image velocimetry (microPIV) to characterize the fluid flow in our device and verify that it is analogous to flow in the body. We're also using these models to understand how SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, affects the response of the blood-brain barrier to fluid flow.
The mechanical properties of the extracellular matrix surrounding blood vessels are known to affect vascular integrity and function. Our laboratory has developed an approach to use magnetic particles to dynamically control the mechanical properties of the matrix surrounding our vascular models. We are currently using this method to mimic the time-dependent changes in spinal cord mechanics that happen in the aftermath of an injury. Our goal is to learn how cells respond to these changes and contribute to the development and progression of the glial scar that follows injury, so that new therapeutic strategies can be developed to reverse these processes and help patients recover motor and sensory function.
In addition to constructing models that investigate the effect of fluid flow on blood vessel integrity and function, our lab also uses engineered vasculature in scaffolds intended to regenerate damaged tissue in the central nervous system (CNS). We are investigating the efficacy of vascularized scaffolds to reduce scarring and to promote and guide axon growth following spinal cord injury. We have also used injectable peptides to deliver other cell types, including mesenchymal stem cells, to the site of injury using magnetic alignment of the scaffold to provide guidance cues to neural cells. Our recent work involves the use of 3D-printed scaffolds to direct the infiltration of axons from the host tissue.
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