Smith Honored by Popular Science’s Brilliant 10

Dec. 6, 2023 - UC Irvine’s Quinton Smith is named to Popular Science’s Brilliant 10, an annual list of early career researchers it describes as “on the cusp of changing the world.”

Popular Science cited Smith’s groundbreaking research in stem cell engineering. Smith, an assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, is growing tissue from stem cells to develop organoids. These lab-grown cells can be used to research and potentially treat disease.

Inspired by the intricate circuits in silicon chips, Smith’s team designed organoid chips with tiny channels filled with a gel concoction to coax the self-assembly of lab-grown blood vessels. He can then send liquids through these organ avatars to test reactions to drug therapies and understand how blood flow influences disease development.

Popular Science described Smith’s chip designs as a “game-changing technique” in organ models. Smith says that blood vessels are essential in tissue engineering because they supply oxygen and nutrients to cells, which in turn could enable large groups of lab-grown structures to communicate and thrive. 

Smith is currently applying his techniques to investigate the causes of preeclampsia, a complication of pregnancy that causes high blood pressure. It can be potentially deadly for any pregnant person but is especially prominent among Black women. Using lab-grown placenta-like cells, Smith is studying how a person’s environment may contribute to inflammation in the placenta and interfere with blood vessels.

Smith is one of five men and five women in the Brilliant 10 Class of 2023 and the only one located on the West Coast.

– Lori Brandt