Research Overview


Biophotonics Approaches to Cancer Biology and Tissue Engineering
 
Alterations to the extracellular matrix (ECM )composition and structure are thought to be critical for tumor initiation and progression for several epithelial carcinomas, including those of the ovary and breast. Our lab develops Second Harmonic Generation (SHG) microscopy tools to quantitative assess these alterations in the stroma where we correlate the optical signatures with structural changes in the fibrillar assembly between normal and diseased tissues. This physical approach provides objective measurements that may be used to understand disease progression. To further investigate how remodeling enables invasion and metastasis in vivo we use multiphoton excited (MPE) photochemistry to fabricate biomimetic in vitro models of the ovarian ECM. The nano/microstructured models simulate the crosslinked fibrillar structure of the native ECM.
 
Tissue engineering has vast potential to improve human health by repair and maintenance of existing tissue or generation of replacement of tissues and organs. A major limitation has been an incomplete understanding of the underlying cell-ECM interactions that govern cell adhesion which will ultimately affect downstream functions. Our approach to this problem utilizes MPE photochemistry to create 3D biomimetic scaffolds directly from crosslinked proteins. Beginning with bio-inspired designs we will seek to achieve improved functionality through local control of composition and concentration, and gradients thereof.