The main thrust of our work is to develop in vitro models of disease that allow us to better study and diagnose disease as well as develop new therapies. Our work integrates a range of tools and disciplines, including tissue engineering methods and materials, microfluidics and microfabrication, fluid mechanics, and nanotechnology.
Sickle cell disease
Our group has a major effort to build tools that allow us to better study sickle cell disease, as well as diagnose and develop treatments. At its core, sickle cell disease is a blood flow disorder, caused when diseased red blood cells stiffen upon deoxygenation in the capillary beds. That stiffening can lead to jamming and blockage of blood flow, precipitating a vaso-occlusive crisis (VOC).
Our goal is to build tools that allow us to study this VOC process in vitro. This requires us to build devices that mimic the size scale of blood vessels as well as the oxygen transport between the blood and surrounding tissue. Additionally, we want to capture other important biological components, such as interactions with the vascular endothelium and immune cells.
In addition to studying the disease from a scientific perspective, we want to build devices that help us better diagnose disease severity and evaluate treatment regimens. We also want to build platforms that can be used to develop new treatments, which are so desperately needed.
A tumor is an extremely complex tissue, incorporating a variety of matrix, stroma, soluble factors, and other cues. Moreover, tumors incorporate unique characteristics, such as a disorganized vasculature and hypoxic regions, that are not seen in other tissue types. Unfortunately, we can only study this complexity in vivo, where the number of tools and probes available is limited, as is the throughput of experiments.
One of the thrusts of our lab is to develop in vitro tumor models that incorporate many of the key microenvironmental cues that affect tumor development as well as the unique vascular architecture. One of the major challenges in tissue engineering is to create vasculature in artificial tissues that resembles vasculature in vitro. We’re trying to use fluid mechanical principles to automatically self-assemble micro-scale tissue building blocks into macro-scale vascularized tissues.
Using this in vitro tumor model, we are trying to better understand:
The process of metastasis (how cancer cells spread through the vasculature from one site to another).
How novel therapeutics—nanoparticles carrying chemotherapeutics or gene-silencing siRNA—are most efficiently delivered to a tumor.
This work combines tissue engineering, biomaterials, fluid mechanics, and microfluidics to solve critical challenges in tissue engineering, cancer biology, and tumor therapy.
While we are very privileged to live in the United States, where we have access to excellent health care, not everyone in the world is so lucky. As engineers, we have have a great opportunity to impact global health through innovative technologies that provide low-cost, robust solutions for diagnosing and treating disease. But cheap isn’t good enough. These solutions also need to be quantitative and accurate.
Our team is working on a number of new tools that we hope will change the way health care is practiced in the developing and developed world.
DK Wood, A Soriano, L Mahadevan, JM Higgins, and SN Bhatia. A biophysical indicator of vaso-occlusive risk in sickle cell disease. Sci Transl Med 4, 123ra26 (2012). doi:10.1126/scitranslmed.3002738.
CY Li, DK Wood, CM Hsu, R Langer, and SN Bhatia. DNA-templated assembly of droplet-derived PEG microtissues. Lab Chip 11, 2967 (2011) doi:10.1039/C1LC20318E.
DK Wood, DM Weingeist, SN Bhatia, and BP Engelward. Single cell trapping and dna damage analysis using microwell arrays. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 107, 10008 (2010) doi:10.1073/pnas.1004056107.
DK Wood, MV Requa, and AN Cleland. Microfabricated high-throughput electronic particle detector. Rev Sci Inst 78, 104301 (2007) doi:10.1063/1.2794230.
DK Wood, GB Braun, J-L Fraikin, LJ Swenson, NO Reich, and AN Cleland. A feasible approach to all-electronic digital labeling and readout for cell identification. Lab Chip 7, 469 (2007) doi:10.1039/B616442K.
G Braun, K Inagaki, RA Estabrook, DK Wood, E Levy, AN Cleland, GF Strouse, and NO Reich. Gold nanoparticle decoration of dna on silicon. Langmuir 21, 10699 (2005) doi:10.1021/la0515367.
DK Wood, SH Oh, SH Lee, HT Soh, and AN Cleland. High-bandwidth radio frequency coulter counter. Appl Phys Lett 87, 184106 (2005) doi:10.1063/1.2125111.
DK Wood, KK Ni, DR Schmidt, and AN Cleland. Submicron giant magnetoresistive sensors for biological applications. Sensor Actuat A-Phys 120, 1 (2005) doi:10.1016/j.sna.2004.10.035.