Marsha Rolle, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at WPI, recently delivered the first lecture of the 2011-12 Young Innovators in Biomedical Engineering seminar series sponsored by the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology. The goal of the series is to highlight “up and coming colleagues” with speakers invited by a committee of assistant professors of biomedical engineering at Georgia Tech.
In a lecture titled, “Cell-Based Approaches to Vascular Tissue Engineering,” Rolle spoke about the work she has been doing over the past four years in WPI’s Life Sciences and Bioengineering Center to create engineered vascular tissue with the aim of one day generating substitute blood vessels for use in transplantation and building model systems that can be employed in laboratory studies of the vascular system and cardiovascular disease.
In her research, Rolle uses cell-based approaches to creating engineered vascular tissue, which means that the cells are not seeded onto biomaterial scaffolds, as is often done in tissue engineering, but rather are created solely from cells and cell-produced extracellular matrix—the material that surrounds and supports cells in the body. This technique can yield tissue that more closely resembles real blood vessels, but it is slow and it can be difficult to coax the cells into the shape of a blood vessel.
Rolle and her students are exploring novel techniques that overcome these limitations by encouraging cells to quickly self-assemble into the proper three-dimensional shape. They have built cohesive and sturdy tubes by seeding cells on tubular substrates and by growing and stacking rings of self-assembled cell—the so-called “bagels on a rope” technique. “Both approaches generate cohesive tissue constructs within 14 days that exhibit mechanical properties similar to reported values for other engineered vascular tissues cultured statically for comparable times,” Rolle says.
In their current work, the team is continuing to analyze the biochemical and mechanical properties of these constructs and experimenting with changes to their culturing techniques that could result in engineered tissue that is even closer to the real thing.
- Learn more about Marsha Rolle and her research.
- Watch a video about Professor Rolle’s research on vascular tissue engineering.
- Watch PhD candidate Tracy Gwyther describe the “bagels on a rope” technique in her prize-winning presentation during WPI’s 2010 Innovation Presentation Competition.
- Read more about this work and other research in tissue engineering in WPI’s research magazine.