Sheehan Family Associate Professor of Engineering
University of Notre Dame
Studying tumor - tumor microenvironment (TME) interactions is crucial for understanding tumor growth and metastasis, and for discovering preventive approaches and therapies. In vivo animal models often fail to provide a platform for designing experiments to study multiple TME parameters simultaneously (such as matrix biophysics and biochemistry, neighboring cells, etc.) in a controlled fashion due to the heterogeneity and complexity of this microenvironment, while conventional two-dimensional (2D) studies fail to recapitulate it. Therefore, cancer research has started to utilize a newly developing research field, namely biomimetic three-dimensional (3D) engineered tissue models.
With the advances in tissue engineering research, now it is possible to produce healthy and diseased tissues, called engineered model tissues, or on-chip tissues, with tunable parameters. Engineering model tissues is a promising new tool for the parametric study of complex events happening during the development and the pathology of organs. Dr. Zorlutuna’s research explores designing biomimetic environments for understanding and controlling cell behavior, and cell-cell and cell-environment interactions using tissue engineering, genetic engineering and micro- and nanotechnology, with particular emphasis on designing systems for co-culturing different cell types in a physiologically relevant manner for engineering complex tissues and for directing stem cell differentiation.