Janak Gaire, Ph.D., & Eleana Manousiouthakis, Ph.D.

Date(s) - 01/10/2022
3:00 pm - 4:00 pm

Virtual via Zoom

Virtual via Zoom & projected in Communicore, C1-004

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Janak Gaire, Ph.D.
Research Assistant Scientist
Dept. of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Biography: Dr. Janak Gaire is a Research Assistant Scientist in the College of Engineering at the University of Florida (UF). His research interests span across interrelated sub-areas of neuroscience, regenerative medicine, and engineering disciplines to identify mechanisms of pro-fibrotic diseases and enhance the regrowth of damaged tissues. He earned his Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences – Neuroscience from the UF in 2018. During his graduate research, under the supervision of Dr. Kevin J. Otto, he focused on mitigation and characterization of foreign body response that occurs at the device-tissue interface of neural implants. Then he joined Dr. Chelsey S. Simmons’ Mechanobiology Lab as a postdoctoral researcher to investigate mechanisms underlying mammalian regeneration and fibrosis, inspired by the spiny mouse (Acomys) – the only known adult mammal to regrow a wide range of tissues after injury. Recently he transitioned into a new position in the role of Research Assistant Scientist in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and aims to continue working towards identifying mechanisms behind scar-free regeneration in Acomys and expand its utility across other fibro-proliferative conditions. I also lead the Acomys Research Consortium and organize bi-weekly meetings to bring together UF researchers interested in Acomys-related work.

Talk Title: Towards studying mechanisms of scarless regeneration in spiny mice (Acomys)

Abstract: Spiny mouse (Acomys) has the potential to revolutionize the field of regenerative medicine as it is the only known adult mammal with a remarkable ability to fully regrow complex tissues, including skin, hair follicles, sebaceous glands, muscle, etc. after injury. However, the mechanisms underlying scarless regeneration in Acomys are not fully understood. Previous studies demonstrate unique characteristics of Acomys immune cells and stromal cells compared to Mus, which typically heals by forming a scar suggesting their role in creating a pro-regenerative niche. However, the exact role and interplay of these cell types remain unknown. In this talk, I will present the findings from our efforts to create an in vivo testbed to study the role of immune cells and stromal cells in mammalian regeneration. I will also discuss the utility of Acomys in studying foreign body responses to biomedical implants and highlight some of the practical challenges associated with working on a novel research organism.

Eleana Manousiouthakis, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Associate,
Department of Biomedical Engineering

Biography: Dr. Eleana Manousiouthakis received her B.S. and M.S. degrees in Biomedical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the University of Southern California, respectively, and her Ph.D. degree in Biomedical Engineering from Tufts University, under the mentorship of Dr. David Kaplan. She is currently a Postdoctoral Associate at the University of Florida working in the laboratory of Dr. Christine Schmidt. As an NDSEG Fellow at Tufts, her doctoral work focused on the development of human in vitro systems to study the interaction between neurons in the enteric nervous system and intestinal cells, with a specific focus on epithelial cells and barrier function. Currently, she works to develop in vitro testbed systems to study the cellular microenvironment and the impact extracellular matrix changes on tissue repair and function. In her future lab, she aims to continue her work on the enteric nervous system to study how neural and glial cells respond to changes in the extracellular matrix. In addition to research, Dr. Manousiouthakis strives to generate and sustain professional community in academia. Currently, she is serving as the President of the University of Florida Postdoctoral Association of which she is a co-founder and previously served as Professional Development Chair.

Talk Title: 3D Printing Conductive Hyaluronic Acid Based Extracellular Matrix for Peripheral Nerve Testing Platform

Abstract: Peripheral nerve injury (PNI) can leave patients with permanent nerve damage, tissue paralysis, and the loss of involuntary and voluntary movement. A nerve gap is formed following PNI that severs the connection between the two ends of the nerve and interrupts the signal transduction needed for function. Although the peripheral nervous system has a repair cascade that triggers growth cone formation, this regeneration is limited to the injury gap length. With the addition of a nerve graft, the gold standard treatment, this treatment only recovers injuries with a gap distance of less than 10 cm.

Attempts at therapeutics for neural regeneration are often tested in vivo, limiting the ability to replicate the scale and biological characteristics in human injury. The development of therapeutics would benefit from the fabrication of human in vitro testing platforms to study the effects of regeneration. In this work we aim to develop a conductive extracellular matrix-based hydrogel that will effectively mimic the neural microenvironment to study stimuli for regeneration of PNI. We synthesize photocrosslinkable hyaluronic acid, a glycosaminoglycan found to be upregulated during PNI, and combine it with multiwalled carbon nanotubes to increase the material conductivity and introduce electrical stimulation to the system. This material is fabricated to mimic soft tissue mechanics and can be integrated into our 3D printed platform to study competing cues on regeneration.