From using T-cells to fight cancer to using microbes to produce biofuels, cellular engineering is a growing area of chemical engineering research at Michigan. Our department is also uncovering new cellular-level information – for example, how cellular signaling occurs or how cancer cells travel through the bloodstream – that can be used to fight diseases. This new knowledge can also be used in tissue engineering.
Professor Maciek Antoniewicz and his group develop and apply cutting-edge quantitative analysis tools and advanced analytical and cell culture methods to study and redirect cellular metabolism. In their interdisciplinary research program, they focus on significant problems in areas related to the microbiome (e.g. natural and synthetic microbial communities), biotechnology (production of biofuels and pharmaceuticals) and medicine (cancer, diabetes, and obesity). They develop and make use of modern techniques in metabolic engineering, adaptive evolution, metabolic profiling, metabolic flux analysis, stable-isotope labeling, mass spectrometry, and computational biology.
The Baker lab studies how structure and mechanics of the cellular microenvironment guide fundamental cell processes such as migration, proliferation, and extracellular matrix synthesis. To do so, we use microfabrication technologies to create synthetic biomaterials that mimic the 3D, fibrous nature of stromal or interstitial tissues. Combined with molecular tools, live imaging, microfabrication/fluidic techniques, and multi-scale mechanical characterization, these materials allow us to model, study, and control the interactions between cells and their surroundings. Ultimately, we aim to 1) shed insight into extracellular matrix-mediated diseases such as cancer and fibrosis and 2) use material cues to direct cell function for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine applications.
Professor Lola Eniola-Adefso and her group design particles that can navigate the bloodstream and home in on inflamed cells for targeted drug delivery and imaging. They use in vitro experimental setups to understand the receptor-ligand interactions involved in leukocyte firm arrest and transmigration. The group also designs sophisticated leukocyte mimetics that can target therapeutics to diseased vasculature via multiple receptor-ligand interactions with applications in cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Professor Nina Lin and her group investigate communities of microbes and engineers symbiotic relationships among them to process chemicals, such as turning plant material into biofuels.
Professor Jennifer Linderman and her group study receptor dynamics, cell signaling and ligand-induced cell behavior. Particular areas of investigation include the immune response to infection with Mycobacterium tuberculosis, calcium signaling and migration and metastasis of breast cancer cells. Computational approaches include multi-scale and agent-based modeling.
Professor Sunitha Nagrath’s research focus is the development of advanced MEMS tools for understanding cell trafficking in cancer through isolation, characterization and study of circulating cell in peripheral blood of cancer patients. Her group works on isolating and studying rare cells from cancer patients. These studies will progress to the design and development of smart chips that use microfluidics and nanotechnology to make an impact in medicine and life sciences.
Professor Lonnie Shea’s laboratory is applying systems engineering approach to develop multi-functional biomaterial systems that can provide multiple cues that direct cell fate. In conjunction, a systems biology approach is applied to molecularly dissect cellular processes and identify the key drivers of cell fate that can be targeted with the biomaterial systems.
The Tessier lab aims to develop next generation technologies for designing, discovering, engineering, characterizing, formulating and delivering monoclonal antibodies and other biologics for molecular imaging, diagnostic and therapeutic applications. Their research in the area of cellular engineering is focused on using antibodies to control stem cell reprogramming and differentiation for applications including eye-related disorders, diabetes and neurodegenerative diseases.
Professor Greg Thurber and his group study molecules used to image diseased tissue, such as tumors, Alzheimer’s plaques, and arterial plaques. The same features that allow imaging molecules to target particular tissues can also be turned to targeted drug delivery. With a fundamental understanding of how molecules distribute in the body, the team can design better molecules for imaging and therapies.
Professor Henry Wang is interested in biopharmaceutical engineering including personalized medicine, rapid vaccine and drug development, and regulatory science and engineering for biomedical innovation. His group is also developing a systematic approach for integrating chemical and biological reactions to produce energy and other products from biomass.
Professor Fei Wen’s research goal is to harness the immunological power of T-cells to fight cancer and infections and to control their undesired behaviors associated with autoimmunity and allergies. Her group is also engineering microbes that are capable of converting plant biomass to biofuels, such as ethanol.