Cores and Researchers

Cores and Researchers2021-02-22T15:23:56+00:00

AR3T’s research infrastructure provides investigators (you!) with access to state-of-the-art expertise from over twenty laboratories across the country working in the domain of Regenerative Rehabilitation.

AR3T’s Cores are designed to support the development of interdisciplinary research efforts, and we encourage you to contact us about collaborative projects, consultations, and sabbatical experiences that will strengthen current lines of research and support the development of new lines of Regenerative Rehabilitation research, to move the field forward. Select individual links below to learn more about researchers available to support your research endeavors.

By Research Core:

Directors: Dr. Thomas Rando (Stanford University) and Dr. Fabrisia Ambrosio (University of Pittsburgh) This Core is designed to provide a comprehensive discovery platform that gives researchers access to expert staff and equipment used in the assessment of in vitro and in vivo cell responses to mechanical and electrical stimuli. This Core assists individuals who seek to better understand how the application of targeted and specific extrinsic stimuli may promote stem cell function and tissue regeneration across a range of tissue specific stem cells, including muscle, endothelial, and neural populations.  Specifically, this Core provides consultations and assistance in the use of 2D and 3D bioractor systems to manipulate various forms of mechanical and electrical forces experienced by cells.

Dr. Ambrosio’s research has the long-term goal of developing Regenerative Rehabilitation approaches to improve the skeletal muscle healing and functional recovery. Her laboratory uses murine and human models to investigate the underlying mechanisms by which targeted and specific mechanotransductive signals can be used to enhance donor and/or host stem cell functionality.

Dr. Boninger’s research efforts at both Pitt and the VA focus on technologies to improve the lives of individuals with spinal cord injury and other disabilities. His teams wheelchair work – conducted primarily at Pittsburgh Human Engineering Research Laboratories, where he is medical director – has led to patents for devices used throughout the world. In addition, his team discovered a link between how a person propels a manual wheelchair and his or her risk of injuries, such as rotator cuff tears.

Dr. Evans utilizes his background in cell and molecular biology to solve clinical problems involving bones and joints. Current areas of focus include: gene therapy for arthritis, which is currently at an advanced, preclinical stage; bone healing and cartilage regeneration, in which he implements various gene, cell and mechanics-based strategies to restore tissue health; and investigations into the influence of inflammation on bone healing and cartilage regeneration.

As a clinician scientist, Dr. George’s laboratory focuses on improving stroke diagnostics as well as engineering new methods to enhance stroke recovery. Specifically, novel bioengineering techniques are employed to understand the mechanisms of neural recovery using rodent models of stroke. Biomaterials, stem cell transplants, and microfabrication are some of the regenerative medicine approaches tested by Dr. George and his group in rodent models. These technologies, in combination with rehabilitation interventions, have the goal of helping improve the functional recovery of patients with stroke.

Ongoing investigations from Dr. Heilshorn’s laboratory include Implantable materials for regenerative medicine, Injectable materials for cell transplantation, and Biotemplates for inorganic nanoparticles. Specifically, Dr. Heilshorn and her group are designing a new family of biomaterials that are made entirely of engineered proteins. Current systems under study include neuronal, cardiac, vascular, and bone tissues amongst others. In addition, the Heilshorn laboratory has research interests in the development of functional cell delivery materials to protect cells from mechanical stress during injection, localize them to the transplantation site, and direct their organization and differentiation in vivo thinning and self-healing.

Dr. Huang’s laboratory uses extracellular matrix proteins and biomaterials to study the effects of biophysical and biomechanical cues on mechanobiology and stem cell differentiation. Using the insights gained from these studies, Dr. Huang and her group hope to develop new therapies in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.

Dr. Jones studies plasticity of neural structure and synaptic connectivity in adult animals following brain damage and during skill learning. Her research in rodent stroke models indicates that this neural remodeling response is extremely sensitive to behavioral changes, including compensatory behaviors that animals develop spontaneously and those induced by motor rehabilitative training.

Dr. Rando’s research has focused on the structure and function of skeletal muscle with particular emphasis on stem cell biology and regenerative potential of muscle tissue in the setting of aging, injury, and disease. His laboratory has more recently expanded into the area of tissue engineering, with an emphasis on Regenerative Rehabilitation, exploring the effects of exercise and physical activity on muscle regenerative and reparative functions.

The laboratory of Dr. Scarisbrick has a special interest in the use of adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells to regenerate peripheral nerve and spinal cord. Her translational work spans murine to clinical models.

Using her background in biochemistry, Dr. Sowa currently performs molecular laboratory based, translational, and clinical research, investigating the effect of motion on inflammatory pathways and the beneficial effects of exercise. She is Co-Director of the Ferguson Laboratory for Orthopaedic and Spine Research, a 3000 square foot laboratory fully equipped to perform molecular assays including gene expression analysis, protein analysis, cell and organ culture, histology, and cellular and spinal biomechanical testing.

Dr. Suggs’ laboratory aims to develop clinically relevant and robust strategies for enhancing the growth of cardiac and vascular tissue in vivo to restore function after injuries such as myocardial infarction, ischemia, and deep burns. Toward this goal this lab studies the in vitro response of stem cells to pro-angiogenic gel materials that they have developed, explores new strategies to encourage stem cell differentiation to cardiomyocytes, and assesses the vessel forming ability of stem cells implanted within gel scaffolds in mouse injury models. They are also interested in creating novel self-assembling gel matrix materials for promoting angiogenesis that are injectable, biocompatible, and readily degradable into natural components that are easily metabolized by the body.

As a physician, Dr. Terzic specializes in cardiovascular rehabilitation and neuromuscular rehabilitation. As a scientist, her research is focused on developing regenerative medicine and stem cell-based cardiac repair and optimizes their properties for cardiac commitment, as well as studying the role of nuclear transport during stem cell differentiation into cardiomyocytes.

The primary research interests of Dr. Wagner’s Laboratory at the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine are in the area of cardiovascular engineering with projects that address medical device biocompatibility and design, tissue engineering, and targeted imaging. Dr. Wagner’s laboratory brings expertise in structural mechanics for the assessment of tissue biophysical properties.

Dr. Wang’s laboratory studies the cellular and molecular mechanisms for the development of tendinopathy using in vitro and in vivo model systems, and enhancing the biological and biomechanical properties of healing tendons and ligaments using functional tissue engineering approaches. Dr. Wang is also interested in understanding how mechanical forces are transmitted to cells and translated into anabolic or catabolic responses. Currently, his major research effort is on tendon stem cell mechanobiology and on the use of platelet-rich plasma to enhance the healing of injured tendons.

The laboratory of Dr. Windebank has a special interest in the use of adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells to regenerate peripheral nerve and spinal cord. Their translational work spans murine to clinical models.

Dr. Wyss-Coray’s laboratory studies the role of immune and injury responses in neurodegeneration and Alzheimer’s disease. His laboratory seeks to understand how immune responses and injury pathways may modulate neurodegeneration and age-related changes in the brain. Dr. Wyss-Coray and his team study these pathways in vivo and in cell culture using a number of genetic and proteomic tools. They have been particularly interested in the fibrogenic pathways as major regulators of biological processes, and they are developing genetic/pharmacological agents to manipulate these pathways.

Dr. Zoldan, a bioengineer, focuses on human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) as a model system to explore key principles underlying tissue formation processes by integrating and applying materials and stem cell bioengineering. Understanding this process and controlling it is critical for treating a broad spectrum of pathological conditions. Current research includes using protein delivery to direct iPSCs differentiation into the cardiovascular lineages, mimicking the cardiac niche, and developing iPSC-derived tissue constructs for cardiac tissue repair and replacement.

Director: Dr. Linda Noble-Haeusslein (University of Texas) Training is available to researchers who are interested in implementing in vivo rehabilitation protocols using murine models. Emphasis is placed on steps to ensure rigor and reproducibility in both intervention and outcome measurements. This Core provides consultation and hands-on assistance in: (1) the development of clinically-relevant rehabilitation protocols to maximize tissue regeneration after injury and disease, including exercise paradigms and rehabilitation modalities such as neuromuscular electrical stimulation; and (2) the identification of measurable functional outcomes in model systems that will reliably determine the efficacy of treatment interventions, as described above.

Dr. Ambrosio’s research has the long-term goal of developing Regenerative Rehabilitation approaches to improve the skeletal muscle healing and functional recovery. Her laboratory uses murine and human models to investigate the underlying mechanisms by which targeted and specific mechanotransductive signals can be used to enhance donor and/or host stem cell functionality.

As a clinician scientist, Dr. George’s laboratory focuses on improving stroke diagnostics as well as engineering new methods to enhance stroke recovery. Specifically, novel bioengineering techniques are employed to understand the mechanisms of neural recovery using rodent models of stroke. Biomaterials, stem cell transplants, and microfabrication are some of the regenerative medicine approaches tested by Dr. George and his group in rodent models. These technologies, in combination with rehabilitation interventions, have the goal of helping improve the functional recovery of patients with stroke.

Dr. Jones studies plasticity of neural structure and synaptic connectivity in adult animals following brain damage and during skill learning. Her research in rodent stroke models indicates that this neural remodeling response is extremely sensitive to behavioral changes, including compensatory behaviors that animals develop spontaneously and those induced by motor rehabilitative training.

Dr. Nathan LeBrasseur’s laboratory studies the genetic and signaling pathways influencing skeletal muscle growth and metabolism, and how their manipulation affects these physiological processes. Dr. Nathan LeBrasseur utilizes murine models to investigate age-related declines in muscle regeneration following injury.

Dr. Michel Modo’s research interests include: neuroimaging, including molecular and cellular MRI; stem cell therapy, such as neural stem cells, stem cell repair, stem cell differentiation, immunological aspects of cell therapy; functional DNA behavioral rodent assessment; histology; and disease models, including stroke, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s. Dr. Modo has research interest in the synergistic effect of stem cell transplantation and exercise to promote functional recovery after stroke.

Dr. Linda Noble-Haeusslein’s research focuses on neurotrauma. She focuses on perspectives of developing clinically relevant rodent models of brain and spinal cord injuries including state-of-the art quantifiable assays of motor/sensory and cognitive functions to assess long-term neurological function; identification of pharmacological and stem cell based therapies for restoring function; and synergism between these therapies and rehabilitation in enhancing recovery.

Dr. Qu’s laboratory has a research focus on translational investigations of the application of stem cell therapeutics for a host of musculoskeletal pathologies. The Qu laboratory is particularly interested in mesenchymal cellular therapeutics for the treatment of degenerative disk disease and other pathologies of the spine.

Dr. Rando’s research has focused on the structure and function of skeletal muscle with particular emphasis on stem cell biology and regenerative potential of muscle tissue in the setting of aging, injury, and disease. His laboratory has more recently expanded into the area of tissue engineering, with an emphasis on Regenerative Rehabilitation, exploring the effects of exercise and physical activity on muscle regenerative and reparative functions.

The laboratory of Dr. Isobel Scarisbrick has a special interest in the use of adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells to regenerate peripheral nerve and spinal cord. Her translational work spans murine to clinical models.

The research interests of Dr. Jay Smith include investigations of mesenchymal stem cell therapies for the treatment of osteoarthritis, as well as other bone, tendon and ligament applications. Dr. Smith’s translational laboratory employs methods spanning molecular analysis to functional testing.

Dr. Wang’s laboratory studies the cellular and molecular mechanisms for the development of tendinopathy using in vitro and in vivo model systems, and enhancing the biological and biomechanical properties of healing tendons and ligaments using functional tissue engineering approaches. Dr. Wang is also interested in understanding how mechanical forces are transmitted to cells and translated into anabolic or catabolic responses. Currently, his major research effort is on tendon stem cell mechanobiology and on the use of platelet-rich plasma to enhance the healing of injured tendons..

The laboratory of Dr. Anthony Windebank has a special interest in the use of adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells to regenerate peripheral nerve and spinal cord. Their translational work spans murine to clinical models.

Dr. Wyss-Coray’s laboratory studies the role of immune and injury responses in neurodegeneration and Alzheimer’s disease. His laboratory seeks to understand how immune responses and injury pathways may modulate neurodegeneration and age-related changes in the brain. Dr. Wyss-Coray and his team study these pathways in vivo and in cell culture using a number of genetic and proteomic tools. They have been particularly interested in the fibrogenic pathways as major regulators of biological processes, and they are developing genetic/pharmacological agents to manipulate these pathways.

Dr. Zoldan, a bioengineer, focuses on human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) as a model system to explore key principles underlying tissue formation processes by integrating and applying materials and stem cell bioengineering. Understanding this process and controlling it is critical for treating a broad spectrum of pathological conditions. Current research includes using protein delivery to direct iPSCs differentiation into the cardiovascular lineages, mimicking the cardiac niche, and developing iPSC-derived tissue constructs for cardiac tissue repair and replacement.