Elastin synthesis in adult cells
Most adult (non-neonatal) cells produce insufficient elastin to repair damaged fibers or for tissue engineering applications and what is produced is not properly assembled. One notable exception are the uterine myometerial smooth muscle cells during the third trimester of pregnancy; which coincides with the time at which the majority of fetal elastin is produced. Our lab is investigating the interactions of pregnancy hormones and mechanical forces in order to understand the mechanisms involved and to determine the conditions necessary for other adult cells that produce to produce and assemble functional elastic fibers.
Skin tissue engineering
Engineered skin substitutes provide improved wound closure times and reduce the need for autologous donor skin needed to close chronic wounds or full thickness skin losses. These substitutes can be used to model changes that occur in the skin such as after the application of negative pressure wound therapy.
In collaboration with Drs. Thomas and Rios in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, we are studying the effects of mechanical stiffness and stretch on uterine fibroid and myometrial cell viability and proliferation. This data as well as study of mechanosensitive pathways is necessary to achieve our long term goal of finding a nonhormonal treatment for uterine fibroids that will shrink the fibroids without harming the surrounding myometrial tissue.