Department of

Chemical Engineering

Designing molecular technology for the 21st century with biology and chemistry


Spring 2011 Seminars

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Towards Engineering Instructive Cellular Microenvironments: Case Studies in Neurogenesis



Randolph Ashton
Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
University of California at Berkeley

Tuesday, February 22
11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
108 Wartik Laboratory

Abstract
The development of human pluripotent stem cell (hPSC) technology (i.e. human embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells) has created enormous potential for the field of regenerative medicine. However, the use of these cells in translational tissue engineering applications remains hindered by limited understanding of the biological mechanisms that regulate stem cell fate.

My research seeks to elucidate these mechanisms by using interdisciplinary approaches to qualitatively and quantitatively define the microenvironmental cues that regulate hPSC fate. Since cells continuously probe their microenvironment and respond to signaling molecules present at the sub-cellular, sub-micron scale, it will likely be necessary to optimally engineer nanoscale aspects of the microenvironment that each cultured cell experiences in order to design macroscale culture systems that effectively instruct hPSC fate.

Studies investigating the role of Ephrin-B2 in adult neurogenesis and the effect of polyvalency on Sonic Hedgehog’s potential for patterning dopaminergic neurons will be presented as examples of the importance of engineering the nanoscale presentation of microenvironmental cues.

These specific research projects will be discussed within the broader context of developing fully defined scalable culture systems that effectively instruct hPSC fate. Such culture systems could serve as the basis for bioreactors that produce hPSC-derived therapeutic cells on the scale required for clinical implementation of regenerative therapies.

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