Department of Cells & Systems Biology
Joined in 2022.Contact Information
Current mechanical and bioprosthetic heart valve replacements are inefficient substitutes to treat valvular heart diseases in young patients due to regenerative incapabilities and are prone to blood clotting or degradation. Heart valve tissue engineering, in which living tissues are grown from cells and biomaterials, is a promising approach that can address these outstanding issues. The Simmons lab has created a hybrid polymer fibre-hydrogel construct, composed of a polycaprolactone backbone and human umbilical cord perivascular cell (hUCPVC)-laden fibrin hydrogel, with mechanical properties that mimic those of native pediatric pulmonary valve tissue. Cells within these engineered heart valves are intended to synthesize tissue that will replace the degradable polymer backbone to yield a full biological replacement valve. My study aims to assess the viability of hUCPVCs embedded in tissue-engineered heart valves, their extracellular matrix (ECM) synthesis (including collagen, elastin, and proteoglycans), and their impact on tissue mechanics. I hope my work will inform the design of tissue-engineered heart valves and enable subsequent preclinical testing.