BME Project 6: Title: Engineering the ECM to control cell behavior

Faculty mentor: Brendon M. Baker, Ph.D.
Required skills: Varies depending on specific project.
Our research focus is to understand how structure and mechanics of the cellular microenvironment influence fundamental cell processes such as migration, proliferation, and extracellular matrix (ECM) synthesis.  We develop novel, tunable biomaterials that mimic the 3D and fibrous nature of native ECMs, can be dynamically remodeled by cells, and have the potential to be scaled to implantable tissues directly.  Combined with molecular tools, live imaging, microfabrication and microfluidic techniques, and multi-scale mechanical characterization, these materials allow us to study the physical interactions between cells and their surroundings.  Mechanistic understanding resulting from these studies provides insight into ECM-mediated diseases such as cancer and fibrosis, but can also be co-opted for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine applications. Current available projects in the lab are centered around 1) building fibrotic disease models in vitro, 2) engineering blood vessels, and 3) programming cell migration, matrix synthesis, and cell death.