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Link to CV
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that affects millions of people worldwide where the insulin producing beta cells of the pancreas are destroyed, resulting in insulin dependence. Due to donor shortages and complications from manual insulin injection, implantation of insulin producing cells is an attractive option. My project focuses on the use of biomaterials which can support differentiation and immunoisolation cells from any host immune response. Currently we are using calcium alginate encapsulation of human embryonic stem cells (hESC). We hypothesise that encapsulation of hESC-derived insulin producing cells can be a viable therapy for type 1 diabetes, due to the virtually unlimited supply of hESCs and the immunoisolation capability of alginate capsules. Differentiation of hESC to insulin producing cells occurs in three steps: definitive endoderm, pancreatic progenitor, and islet maturation insulin. Currently we have focused on cells encapsulated at 3 different stages: after maturation to islet-like cells, at the definitive endoderm (DE) stage or as undifferentiated (UD) hESCs. Our results to date show that encapsulation of fully matured cells results in low viability, as well as lower gene expression of mature markers compared to cells prior to encapsulation. However, when hESCs derived DE cells were encapsulated and further induced to islet like cells; the cells resulted in higher gene expression of mature markers compared to tissue culture plastic (TCP) controls. The viability of the encapsulated cells albeit still remained low. Finally, we evaluated the feasibility of encapsulation of UD hESCs and allowing them to progress through all stages of differentiation under encapsulation. The encapsulated UD hESCs remain viable and grow into large colonies towards the end of the differentiation protocol. Very encouragingly, many of the differentiation markers analyzed were even stronger when cells were encapsulated, in contrast to parallel control cells cultured in conventional TCP.
2010-Present Doctoral Program in Chemical Engineering, University of Pittsburgh
2010 BS in Chemical Engineering, Texas A&M University
Teaching Experience 2012 Teaching Assistant: Biochemistry for Engineers” at the University of Pittsburgh taught by Dr. Muhammad Ataai2011 Teaching Assistant: for undergraduate “Chemical Engineering – Foundations” at the University of Pittsburgh taught by Dr. Robert Parker