Leadership Seminar Series: Biomimetic Patterning to Control Cell Behaviors

09/21/2015 - 3:00pm
Jennifer West, Ph.D., Fitzpatrick Family University Professor of Engineering, Duke University
Communicore, room C1-17

Please also join us for a reception honoring Dr. West at 4:00pm in the Biomedical Sciences Building atrium!

The West Lab has worked extensively in the development of surfaces and 3D scaffold materials that provide a high degree of control over cell adhesion and signaling events.  These materials support very low levels of protein adsorption, and thus cell-material interactions are restricted to those intentionally engineered into the material design.  Hydrogel scaffold materials have also been developed that are degraded in response to cellular proteolytic activity.  This allows materials to degrade in response to cell activities such as migration rather than continuous hydrolysis as is seen in common polyesters.  We have developed patterning technologies in both 2D and 3D to allow spatial control over cell-material interactions.  Image-guided laser scanning lithography has allowed us to recapitulate cellular focal adhesion complexes with nanoscale resolution to control and manipulate cytoskeletal architecture of cells seeded on these patterned surfaces.  As shown in Figure 1, we can prepare highly homogeneous cellular arrays using this technology.  Two-photon laser scanning lithography allows 3D micropatterning of covalently immobilized peptides and proteins in hydrogels, again with nanoscale resolution, to guide cell migration and network assembly.  This technology allows free-form 3D patterning for material fabrication, immobilization of bioactive factors, or manipulation of mechanical properties.  As shown in Figure 2, confocal images from tissues can be used to develop patterning instructions in order to recapitulate complex tissue architectures within scaffold biomaterials.

figure 1
Figure 1: Cellular Array on a 2D surface patterned using image-guided laser scanning lithography
figure 2
Figure 2: Image-guided multiphoton laser scanning lithopgraphy was used to recapitulate microvascular architecture in tissue scaffold materials in 3D.


Dr. Jennifer West joined the faculty at Duke in 2012, after having been the department chair and Cameron Professor of Bioengineering Rice University.  Professor West was one of the founding members of Rice’s Department of Bioengineering, building it to a top ten program over the prior sixteen years. 

Professor West’s research focuses on the development of novel biofunctional materials.  Part of her program has developed nanoparticle-based approaches to biophotonics therapeutics and diagnostics.  An example of this work is the application of near-infrared absorbing nanoparticles for photothermal tumor ablation.  In animal studies, this therapeutic strategy has demonstrated very high efficacy with minimal side effects or damage to surrounding normal tissues.  In 2000, Professor West founded Nanospectra Biosciences, Inc. to commercialize the nanoparticle-assisted photothermal ablation technology, now called AuroLase.  Nanospectra Biosciences, Inc., located in Houston, TX, is the recipient of a NIST ATP Award and a grant from the Texas Emerging Technology Fund.  Professor West is a director of the company.  The company has built manufacturing facilities, and AuroLase cancer therapy is now in human clinical trials.

Professor West has received numerous accolades for her work.  In 2015, she received the Society for Biomaterials Clemson Award.  In 2014, she was recognized by Thomson Reuters as a Highly Cited Researcher, the top 1% in the field of materials science.  In 2010 she was named Texas Inventor of the Year and also Admiral of the Texas Navy (highest honor the governor of Texas can bestow on a civilian).  In 2008, The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas honored her with the O’Donnell Prize in Engineering as the top engineer in the state.  In 2006, she was named one of 20 Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professors, recognizing integration of world class research and teaching.  She has been listed by MIT Technology Review as one of the 100 most innovative young scientists and engineers world wide.  Other recognitions include the Christopher Columbus Foundation Frank Annunzio Award for scientific innovation, Nanotechnology Now’s Best Discovery of 2003, Small Times Magazine’s Researchers of the Year in 2004, and the Society for Biomaterials Outstanding Young Investigator Award.

Professor West has authored more than 180 research articles.  She also holds 18 patents that have been licensed to eight different companies.  She has lectured at numerous institutions, including Harvard, Harvard Medical School, MIT, FDA, and NCI.  She was an invited speaker at the 2006 Nobel Symposium and invited back in 2014 for the 50th Anniversary Nobel Symposium.

Professor West has served as a member of the Bioengineering, Technology, and Surgical Sciences study section at NIH, and has served on numerous other review boards for NIH and NSF.  She has also been a member of the Defense Sciences Study Group, a member of the NRC panel on management of university intellectual property, and a member of the AAMC panel on research.  She is currently treasurer of the Biomedical Engineering Society and Chair-Elect of the College of Fellows of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering.  Her laboratory receives funding from NIH, NSF, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and DOD.

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