Engineering the Microenvironment of Stem Cells


Dr. Hossein Tavana

Dr. Hossein Tavana, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, has received funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for his research on the microenvironment of stem cells. The three-year, $310,000 NSF grant will fund Tavana’s ongoing work to improve the efficiency of generating neural cells from stem cells that can potentially be used in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.

According to Tavana, stem cells hold great promise for replacing damaged cells and recovering lost tissue function, but current approaches to cell replacement therapy are inefficient. Tavana and his research team, in collaboration with Dr. Rebecca Willits who is a Co-PI of the grant, will investigate how engineering the microenvironment of stem cells – specifically the size and spatial organization of stem cell colonies – can improve the efficiency of generating neural cells without a need for differentiation-inducing chemicals.

“Importantly, the methodology we develop will be applicable broadly to deriving other cell types from stem cells, and the ease and inexpensive nature of implementing the microtechnology makes it accessible to the research community,” says Tavana.