Our research centers on creating biomaterials-based “living” immune tissues as organoids or on-chip to recapitulate structural and functional aspects of lymph nodes. The immune follicle organoids communicate dynamically with B and T cells and regulate the immune response. Using engineering principles, we study cellular and biophysical crosstalk among lymphoid tissues with immune cells, their tumors. Our lab investigates the decision-making in immune cells at the cellular, molecular, and epigenetic levels to protect them from infections, cancer, and inflammation. Our lab studies the effect of metabolic syndrome on bioengineered vaccines and develops immuno-modulatory nanomaterials to modulate microbiome and immune cells in metabolic disorders.
We have four major directions:
1) Multiscale engineering of immune cells and lymphoid organs: Our interest is in developing ex vivo immune organoids and on-chip technologies to understand the process through which the B and T cells interact in the immune system to makes antibodies. We are interested in multiscale engineering strategies for the design and development of B and T cell-based immunotherapies. The engineered ex vivo immune organs have applications in immunity, cancer, infections, and inflammation.
2) Cancer Bioengineering: Our interest is in understanding how disruption of normal signaling and epigenetic processes results in the transformation of healthy cells to cancers. By developing ex vivo “malignant” tissues in a dish or on-chip, we have led to the discovery and advancement of new classes of signaling, epigenetic, and immune therapeutics. Our focus areas are immune neoplasms, hematological malignancies, and prostate cancer.
3) Immunomodulation in Metabolic Syndrome and Gut Microbiome: We are interested in studying the effect of metabolic syndrome on the bioengineered system and develop new immuno-modulatory biomaterials, especially individually tailored nanomedicines to adjust specific microbial species and immune cells in metabolic disorders and inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs), such as ulcerative colitis.
4) Immunology: We are interested in the study of mechanisms through which the signaling and epigenome programs the normal and disease-specific immune responses.
We engineer self-assembling materials that are genetically-encoded and stimuli-responsive. Using these materials, together with genetic and protein engineering tools, we tackle exciting challenges in nanotechnology, biotechnology and medicine. We are also interested in dissecting the DNA and genomic parts that encode for such material systems and their emergent biophysical properties at the DNA/genome and protein levels. To learn new principles of self-assembly and stimuli-responsiveness, we take a bioinspired approach. We probe and manipulate self-assembly phenomena within cells and tissues. The resulting findings illuminate fundamental aspects of biology and serve as foundation to engineer advanced biomaterials.
Our study focuses on Soft Active Materials especially those consisting both solid and liquid, such as gels, cells and soft biological tissues. Our research is at the interface between mechanics and materials chemistry. Our studies span from fundamental mechanics to novel applications.
Our research involves synthetic and biological polymers and particles in fluids. We are particularly intrigued by disease-inspired materials research: macromolecules and biomaterials strong enough to kill an organism offer special opportunities in materials science. A great example is found in the hydrophobins, which are fungal proteins with very high surface activity. Not only do these small proteins go to surfaces, but once they arrive they form strong membranes that can stabilize sub-millimeter structures in unusual shapes. For example, hydrophobins stabilize cylindrical bubbles. This defies the principle of least surface area, and indicates that the surface-active hydrophobin proteins behave as solids once they equilibrate at the surface. We try to exploit the unusual structures. Another area of research is in synthetic polypeptides, especially when attached to particles. These materials may prove useful in chiral separations, and we believe they offer special opportunities for study of crowded colloidal suspensions. Polyelectrolyte behavior is another research theme and showcases our abilities in polymer characterization, including development of new methods.
Cardiovascular diseases are the leading causes of death and disability worldwide. We are dedicated to developing new therapies to help cardiac patients by identifying, testing, and moving new therapies towards clinical use. We study stem cell therapies to prevent heart damage and promote repair. We use biomaterials to increase cell retention, increase efficacy, and target activity.
The MNM Biotech Lab uses engineering expertise to assist life scientists in the study, diagnosis, and treatment of human disease. By developing better models of the body, we help advance drug discovery, increase understanding of the mechanisms of disease, and develop clinical treatments. Areas of study include:
Aqueous Two-Phase Systems
Microfluidic Logic Circuits
Interrogation and Control of Cell Signaling Mechanisms
Assisted Reproductive Technology
3D Cell Culture
Microenvironment Engineering and Materials Modifications
Size-adjustable nanochannels and DNA linearization/stretching
The Dreaden Lab uses molecular engineering to impart augmented, amplified, or non-natural function to tumor therapies and immunotherapies. The overall goal of our research is to engineer molecular and nanoscale tools that can (i) improve our understanding of fundamental tumor biology and (ii) simultaneously serve as cancer therapies that are more tissue-exclusive and patient-personalized. The lab currently focuses on three main application areas: optically-triggered immunotherapies, combination therapies for pediatric cancers, and nanoscale cancer vaccines. Our work aims to translate these technologies into the clinic and beyond.
Molecular Engineering, Tumor Immunity, Nanotechnology, Pediatric Cancer