08/04/2016 – by Lehigh University
Replacing and repairing human tissue is becoming feasible largely due to advances in the use of stem cells. Unfortunately, obstacles still stand in the way of engineering these malleable cells to self-renew or expand.
One of those obstacles is an incomplete picture of how cells interact with their environment.
“Cells do not simply reside within a material, they actively reengineer it,” said Kelly Schultz, P.C. Rossin assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Lehigh University’s P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science. “Characterizing how cells behave in Three-Dimensional (3-D) synthetic material is critical to advancing biomaterial design used in wound healing, tissue engineering and stem cell expansion.”
Schultz recently received a three-year grant from National Institutes of Health grant (NIH) (Award date: May 9, 2016) to study how cells remodel their microenvironment—a crucial step toward engineering cells to move through synthetic material and tissue more quickly for faster wound healing and tissue regeneration.
Schultz will build on previous work in which she and her colleagues revealed that during attachment, spreading and motility, cells degrade material in the pericellular region–the region directly around the cell—in an entirely different manner than researchers had previously believed. The results were published in an article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).