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ISCRM Faculty Shine a New Light on Scarring

By October 22, 2018No Comments

Collaboration is the engine of scientific progress at UW Medicine and at the Institute of Stem Cell & Regenerative Medicine (ISCRM), where 130 researchers are developing stem cell-based approaches to treat diseases affecting nearly every organ and system in the human body.

So, exactly what does it look like when two clever minds probing questions about everyday biological functioning team up for the greater good?

For Dr. Cole DeForest and Dr. Jen Davis, the story is about shedding new light – literally – on the cellular processes essential for an underappreciated aspect of human health – scarring.

Dr. DeForest is an Assistant Professor in UW’s Department of Chemical Engineering. Dr. Davis is an Assistant Professor of Bioengineering and Pathology at UW Medicine. Both are core faculty members at ISCRM.

Scarring is vital for wound healing, whether the injury occurs on the outside of the body or internally, say, to an organ. In their investigation, DeForest and Davis are looking closely at the behavior of fibroblasts, cells that are responsible for building the scaffolding matrix that give organs their structure and shape.

DeForest and Davis want to know what happens to these fibroblasts – and the scaffoldings they create – in response to the pulsatile forces that accompany each heart beat, pumping blood to cells throughout the body.

“There is a growing appreciation that cyclic mechanics play an important role in guiding cell fate,” says DeForest. “Every time the heart pumps, our tissues undergo transient minor stiffening that can alter biological function in largely unknown ways. We are looking into how these cyclic tissue stiffening events impact scarring.”