Stem cell engineering for blood vessel growth is the goal of new bioengineering professor Duke


DURHAM – Sharon Gerecht will join the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Duke University as Professor of Biomedical Engineering effective January 1, 2022. An internationally renowned pioneer in stem cells and vascular biology, Gerecht focuses on engineering and control growth of blood vessels for applications ranging from wound healing to cancer therapy. Gerecht will bring his expertise to the ever growing Duke BME biomaterials community.

Prior to joining Duke, Gerecht was Edward J. Schaeffer Professor of Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, where she was Director of the Institute for NanoBio Technology. Gerecht is an elected member of the America Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences, and the National Academy of Inventors. She is also an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine and is the author of over 150 articles, book chapters and patents in her field.

With research at the intersection of stem cell biology and engineering, Gerecht designed and manufactured biomaterials that could guide the development of stem cells as they evolve into vascular cells.

Gerecht will continue this work in her new role at Duke, where she looks forward to developing new collaborations with researchers in biomedical engineering and across the university.

“Not only is Duke’s Department of Biomedical Engineering one of the best in the country, the proximity to the excellent Duke University Medical Center also makes it easier for me to work with researchers and physicians from across the school,” says Gerecht. “I was also very excited about the new opportunities that will be supported by the new Duke Science and Technology initiative. “

Researchers have long explored how best to trigger the growth of stem cells into specific cell types, such as neurons, muscle cells, or kidney cells. When it comes to vascular cellsthe cells that make up the blood vesselsGerecht advanced this quest by exploring the relationship between stem cells and their surrounding microenvironments. This involves not only studying the makeup of the matrix surrounding cells, but also exploring how cells respond to mechanical forces, like pressure, and tracking the amount of oxygen in the area around cells.

“Our blood vessels supply oxygen to almost every organ in our body, so any injury or developmental defect can affect their function,” says Gerecht. “My lab uses biomaterials and microfluidics to create systems that mimic the natural environment where these cells would grow so that we can examine how specific factors can impact their function. If we can figure this out, we can hopefully explore what we need to do to control the growth of blood vessels. “

This work, according to Gerecht, could be important for uses such as wound healing, where the body could be triggered to naturally create new blood vessels that would promote the formation of new, healthy tissue. The opposite approach could also be useful for studying potential cancer therapies, as researchers could determine how to prevent blood vessels from growing and supporting a tumor.

In addition to this work, Gerecht is also pursuing a research project that extends outside the laboratory and beyond the Earth’s atmosphere.

“My lab is working with TRISH / NASA to study the impact of space radiation on the human vascular system,” she says. “The goal is to explore how the human body would be affected when you travel through space for an extended period of time to a planet like Mars. A secondary impact of this project that I would like to eventually explore would be to study how radiation therapy as a therapy specifically affects the healthy vascular system.

Beyond his research, Gerecht also looks forward to opportunities to mentor and support students through his new role at Duke.

“My lab’s work sits at the intersection of many fields, so in addition to biomedical engineering students, I am delighted to work with students and postdoctoral fellows in developmental and cellular biology, cancer biology and science. materials, ”says Gerecht. “Beyond working with students with diverse research interests, I also want to create new research opportunities for students from under-represented groups, both in my lab and across Duke as a whole. ‘institution. There are plenty of opportunities for me at Duke, and I can’t wait to get started.

(C) Duke University


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