Designer niches for analyzing cancer: From initiation to metastasis
Systems and strategies for promoting tissue growth provide enabling technologies for either enhancing regeneration for diseased or injured tissues, or to investigate abnormal tissue formation such as cancer. Given the complexity inherent in tissues, my laboratory is working towards the concept of "Systems Tissue Engineering", which indicates the dual need i) to develop systems capable of presenting combinations of factors that drive tissue growth, as well as ii) to incorporate systems biology approaches that can identify the appropriate combination of factors. Biomaterial scaffolds represent a central component of many approaches and provide the enabling tools for creating an environment and/or deliver factors that can direct cellular processes toward tissue formation. We have developed scaffolds that are capable of capturing early metastatic cells, which can also reduce the burden of disease, and have been investigating the mechanisms by which the scaffold influences disease progression.
The ability to identify factors from amongst the complex biological milieu that are determining cell fate has been the focus of our systems biology efforts. We have developed a cellular array for the large scale profiling of transcription factor activity throughout the duration of in vitro culture, which we propose can identify the factors necessary to drive cells towards the desired phenotype. This array represents a novel systems biology tool for molecularly dissecting cell fate decisions.