Mai Ngo will join the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering in August 2024 as an assistant professor. Currently, she is an NIH NRSA Postdoctoral Fellow in Dr. Christopher Chen's lab at Boston University. Her postdoctoral research is focused on combining tools from tissue engineering and mammalian synthetic biology in order to understand how paracrine signals guide vascularization in engineered tissues. Previously, she was an NSF Graduate Research Fellow at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Under the guidance of Dr. Brendan Harley, she developed biomaterial platforms to study the role of vascular signaling in brain cancer progression.
Communication between different cell types plays a key role in guiding tissue form and function. In order to understand how cell-cell communication influences tissue development, repair/regeneration, and disease, it is important to identify the signals that are exchanged between cell types, the stimuli that trigger these signals, and the spatiotemporal dynamics of these cell-cell interactions. However, our current ability to study cell-cell communication within tissues is limited by a lack of in vitro models that recapitulate tissue form and function, as well as tools to probe and construct dynamic communication loops between cells. Overcoming these limitations would uncover mechanisms by which cell-cell communication instructs tissue-level behavior and enable therapies that control cell-cell communication to direct disease or regenerative outcomes.
The Ngo lab will combine principles and tools from tissue engineering, cell engineering, and mammalian synthetic biology in order to build tissue models that can be used to study how the interactions between different cell types influence tissue development, regeneration, and disease. These engineered tissues will also be utilized as tissue therapies, in which cell-cell communication can be programmed to guide regenerative outcomes. Specific project areas are as follows:
- Vascularization of engineered tissues via synthetic control of paracrine signaling
- The role of tumor-vascular crosstalk, and tissue-tissue crosstalk, in initiating cancer metastasis
- The contributions of neurovascular signaling to brain development and vascularization
- Spatial and temporal control of neural regeneration by vascular signaling