Engineering materials to control cell function
Featuring: Wendy Liu, Ph.D.
Department of Biomedical Engineering
University of California, Irvine
Cellular behavior is rigorously controlled by dynamic cues in the surrounding environment. In particular, interactions with the underlying substrate and neighboring cells together coordinate growth, migration, differentiation, and a host of other cellular functions. Understanding these processes requires a multidisciplinary approach involving methods from biology and materials engineering. My work combines microscale technologies with techniques in cell and molecular biology to control the physical and chemical properties of the cellular microenvironment. Using such approaches to modulate the degree of cell adhesion, we have examined the role of multicellular interactions on cell proliferation and the transduction of mechanical forces. Our findings demonstrate that different cell types sense and respond to their environment in distinct ways, and suggest an important role for cell adhesion in transducing these signals. Our current work seeks to understand cell-material interactions as they relate to the foreign body response, or the inflammatory reaction that result from biomaterials implantation within the body. Our efforts are focused on dissecting the roles of adhesion and mechanics on immune cell activation, and developing biomimetic surfaces to modulate the inflammatory response.
Dr. Liu graduated from MIT with a B.S. degree in Materials Science and Engineering in 2000. She then earned her Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from the Johns Hopkins University as a National Science Fellow. There, she worked in the laboratory of Dr. Christopher Chen, where her research utilized microfabrication approaches to probe the role of the cellular microenvironment in mechanotransduction and cell proliferation. Following her Ph.D., Wendy was a postdoctoral scientist at Arsenal Medical Inc., a biomedical start-up company developing cardiovascular devices. In 2009, she returned to her undergraduate alma mater, where she was a postdoctoral research fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Robert Langer. Her work was focused on developing tools to evaluate the immune response to biomedical devices. Liu joined UC Irvine in 2010 as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and the Edwards Lifesciences Center for Advanced Cardiovascular Technology.