Nearly every tissue in the body needs a blood supply, and that demand is met by a network of interconnected blood vessels called the microcirculation. The microcirculation is a highly adaptable system of small blood vessels that are a tenth of the diameter of a human hair–-you need a microscope to see them–-and there are over a million microvessels in a single gram of tissue. Microvascular growth and remodeling are important processes in nearly every major disease, including diabetes, heart disease, peripheral vascular disease, stroke, neurodegenerative diseases, and cancer. In our lab, we develop and use experimental and computational techniques to study and design new approaches for growing and regenerating injured and diseased tissues by manipulating the structure and composition of the microvasculature.
With the recent acquisition of two state-of-the-art 3D-bioprinters, we have begun to explore how 3D-printing technology can be used to produce engineered tissues for use as model systems for studying disease and for generating implantable tissue constructs. Our current 3D-bioprinting projects involve collaborations with biomaterials experts at UVA in Chemical Engineering and make use of cutting-edge polymers for oxygen sensing developed by the Fraser Lab in the Dept. of Chemistry. Current work is focused on printing mini-pancreas tissue chips and skeletal muscle. These studies have been fueled by funds from the Jefferson Trust and have seeded a brand new "Center for Advanced Biomanufacturing" at UVA, with BME collaborator, Dr. George Christ.
We use a parallel approach that combines experimental models with agent-based computational models to guide the development of new methods in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. We are particularly interested in the microcirculatory system and how microvascular networks structurally adapt, through active growth and remodeling in health and disease. Our research is relevant to a variety of medical problems including heart disease, peripheral limb ischemia, wound healing, cancer and diabetes.