Tissue Engineering of the Pre-metastatic Niche

Date(s) - 12/11/2017
3:00 pm

Leadership Speaker: Lonnie Shea, Ph.D., Professor and William and Valerie Hall Chair, Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Michigan

Systems and strategies for promoting tissue growth provide enabling technologies for either enhancing regeneration for diseased or injured tissues, or to investigate abnormal tissue formation such as cancer. Given the complexity inherent in tissues, my laboratory is working towards the concept of “Systems Tissue Engineering”, which indicates the dual need i) to develop systems capable of presenting combinations of factors that drive tissue growth, as well as ii) to incorporate systems biology approaches that can identify the appropriate combination of factors. Biomaterial scaffolds represent a central component of many approaches and provide the enabling tools for creating an environment and/or deliver factors that can direct cellular processes toward tissue formation. My laboratory has been working to establish synthetic pre-metastatic niches as a means to investigate the spread of cancer with the goal of developing diagnostics or new therapies. Breast cancer is known to metastasize to specific sites (e.g., lung, liver), indicating the process is not random, and we have developed implants mimic key aspects of the metastatic niche. These implants reduce the burden of disease in solid organs and provide a survival advantage when combined with early interventions. The immune system plays a central role in homing and colonization of the implant by cancer cells. In addition to colonizing metastatic niches, cancer cells can develop resistance to chemotherapy in this environment, and we are applying systems biology tools to understand the development of resistance.


Lonnie Shea is the Chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Michigan, which is joint between the College of Engineering and the School of Medicine. He received his PhD in chemical engineering and scientific computing from U-M in 1997, working with Professor Jennifer Linderman. He then served as a postdoctoral fellow with then ChE Professor David Mooney in the Department of Biologic and Materials Science at the U-M Dental School.

Shea was recruited to Northwestern University’s Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering and was on the faculty from 1999 to 2014. In 2014, Shea was recruited back to the University of Michigan as chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering, with his recruitment leading to the endowment of the chair position by William and Valerie Hall. He is an internationally recognized researcher at the interface of regenerative medicine, drug and gene delivery, and immune tolerance, whose focus is controlling the local microenvironment for directing tissue growth or regeneration. His projects include ovarian follicle maturation for treating infertility, islet transplantation for diabetes therapies, nerve regeneration for treating paralysis, autoimmune diseases and allogeneic cell transplantation, and cancer diagnostics. He is also developing and applying systems biology approaches to molecularly dissect tissue formation and identify key drivers of normal and abnormal growth. He is currently PI or co-PI on 7 NIH grants (5R01’s, 1 R21, and 1 project of a P50).

Shea has published more than 210 manuscripts, and has numerous inventions to his credit, among them a cellular assay with which he can measure the activity of numerous transcription factors within the cell that reveal key signaling pathways as cells differentiate. He leads the University-wide Regenerative Medicine Collaborative, and is the PI for the Coulter Foundation Translational Research grants committee at the University of Michigan. He served as director of Northwestern’s NIH Biotechnology Training Grant and was a member of its Institute for BioNanotechnology in Medicine. He is a fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE), a standing member of the Biomaterials and Biointerfaces study section at NIH, and a member of the editorial boards for Molecular Therapy, Biotechnology and Bioengineering, and Drug Delivery and Translational Research.