Mechanobiology, Stem Cells and Heart Valves

Friday, November 9, 2012 - 2:00pm
Fung Auditorium | Powell-Focht Bioengineering Hall
Craig A. Simmons, PhD, PEng

Associate Professor, Mechanical & Industrial Engineering

Institute for Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering

University of Toronto

Mechanobiology, Stem Cells and Heart Valves


Heart valves are remarkably robust connective tissues that are essential for proper heart function. Dysfunction of the aortic heart valve in particular has dire consequences and is not treatable medically. Valve dysfunction results from maladaptive tissue remodeling by resident mesenchymal stem cells that differentiate to myofibroblasts and osteoblasts to cause fibrosis and calcification, respectively. Notably, valve lesions form preferentially in regions that correlate spatially with distinct hemodynamic and biomechanical environments. These correlations between mechanics and pathological changes can provide insights into the factors that contribute to valve homeostasis and disease. In this talk, I will present our work aimed at identifying the cellular and molecular regulators of valve (patho)biology, with particular focus on how extracellular matrix mechanics and blood flow regulate valve cell function and modulate pathological differentiation of valve progenitor cells.


Craig A. Simmons is an Associate Professor at the University of Toronto with cross- appointments to the Department of Mechanical & Industrial Engineering, the Institute of Biomaterials & Biomedical Engineering, and the Biomaterials Department in the Faculty of Dentistry. After earning his Ph.D. in Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering from the University of Toronto in 2000, he completed postdoctoral fellowships at the University of Michigan (2000-2002) and the University of Pennsylvania (2002-2004) before returning to the University of Toronto as a faculty member in 2005. As director of the Cellular Mechanobiology Lab, he leads a talented team of postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, and undergraduate students in fundamental and applied investigations into the processes by which mechanical forces regulate tissue regeneration and disease, with focus on heart valve disease, stem cell- based tissue regeneration, and biomedical microdevice design. Prof. Simmons holds the Canada Research Chair in Mechanobiology, and is the recipient of the Ontario Early Researcher Award; the McCharles Prize for early career research distinction; and the McLean Award for recognition as an emerging research leader. In 2009, he received the Early Career Teaching Award in the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering in recognition of exceptional classroom instruction and his contributions as Undergraduate Biomedical Option Chair in the Division of Engineering Science and Director of the NSERC CREATE Graduate Student Training Program