Biophysical Cues for Vascular Differentiation and Assembly

Date(s) - 09/12/2022
3:00 pm - 4:00 pm

Communicore, C1-009

Sharon Gerecht, Ph.D., Paul M. Gross Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering & Associate Dean for Research and Infrastructure, Pratt School of Engineering, Duke University

Vascular differentiation and formation (morphogenesis) and eventual homeostasis occur in a complex milieu. Two aspects of this microenvironment seem critical for blood vessel growth and stabilization: (i) the extracellular matrix, which provides critical support for vascular cell adhesion, proliferation, migration, and morphogenesis, and (ii) low oxygen concentrations (hypoxia), which is a critical factor promoting vascularization during embryonic development, injury, and tumor growth. In this talk, I will present our recent efforts to develop and use engineering approaches to understand how these physicochemical cues and downstream signaling pathways impact vascular differentiation and assembly, leading to fundamental knowledge and future therapeutics.


Dr. Gerecht is the Paul M. Gross Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Duke University. She is a global expert in vascular and stem cell biology and engineering, including pioneering engineering principles to understand and harness cell fate decisions for therapeutic developments. She and her lab team study how the microenvironment modulates stem cell fate, differentiation, and tissue assembly. These include understanding how various properties of the extracellular matrix modulate cellular responses and how oxygen gradients regulate tissue performance. They develop biomaterials to guide morphogenesis through sequential activation of signaling pathways to form functional tissues and use a range of disease and injury models to delineate these mechanisms in vivo.

Dr. Gerecht is the recipient of the Allan C. Davis Medal from the Maryland Academy of Sciences (2008), the North America Vascular Biology Organization Junior Investigator Award (2009), the Basil O’Connor Starter Scholar Research Award from the March of Dimes Foundation (2009-2011), the National Scientist Development Award (2008-2012) and Established Investigator Award (2014-2019) both from the American Heart Association, the National Science Foundation CAREER award (2011-2016), the W.W. Smith Charitable Trust Heart award (2014-2017), and the Johns Hopkins University Inaugural President’s Frontier Award (2015). Dr. Gerecht is an elected Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (2016), an elected Member of the National Academy of Medicine (2019), and an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (2020) and the National Academy of Inventors (2020). She is the author of more than 200 papers, book chapters, and patents in her field.