Microenvironmental Effects on Cell Phenotype and Function

Friday, April 8, 2016 - 2:00pm
Fung Auditorium | Powell-Focht Bioengineering Hall
Dr. Laura Suggs

Associate Chair

Biomedical Engineering

University of Texas at Austin

Microenvironmental Effects on Cell Phenotype and Function


Tissue homeostasis is governed by cellular interactions with their physical surroundings, primarily the extracellular matrix (ECM).  In cardiovascular development and wound repair, stem and progenitor cells organize and differentiate to form blood vessels that allow for tissue regeneration.  In cancer progression, the characteristics of the ECM motivate cellular transformation and an invasive phenotype. For example, the ECM of tumors is much stiffer than surrounding, healthy tissue, and tumor stiffness is known to correlate with the progression of disease.  The overarching goals of our lab are therefore two-fold:  First, we seek to develop and characterize novel biomaterial hydrogels that can serve as ECM mimics, both for the in vitro study of cellular phenomena as well as the in vivo therapeutic potential of such materials to augment cell therapies.  Second, we seek to interrogate the biology role of the ECM in cellular differentiation, development, transformation and maturation in cardiovascular development and cancer progression.


Dr. Laura Suggs earned her undergraduate degrees from the University of Texas at Austin and her Ph.D. in chemical engineering with a concentration in biomaterials and tissue engineering from Rice University in 1998. Following an industrial position as a Senior Scientist and a Research Associate position at the University of Minnesota, she returned to Texas to join the faculty of The University of Texas at Austin in 2004. She has been the recipient of the following awards:  American Heart Association Beginning Grant-in-Aid and Grant-in-Aid; NSF ADVANCE Fellowship; NSF CAREER award; Sigma Xi Award for Excellence in a Doctoral Dissertation; Hershel M. Rich Invention Award of Rice University for Outstanding Patent.  She was recently elected to the American Institute for Medical and Biologic Engineering. She has received funding from the American Heart Association, the Welch Foundation, National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense.  She serves as a journal reviewer for JBMR, JCR, Biomaterials, Tissue Engineering, Stem Cells, Biomacromolecules, and Acta Biomaterialia.  She is an associate editor for Annals of Biomedical Engineering, and she also serves on the governing board of the Society for Biomaterials.  Her education portfolio includes Engineering Biomaterials, Tissue Engineering, Cell Engineering and Senior Design Projects.  These efforts have earned her the National Instruments Teaching Excellence Award in 2006 and the ASEE Gulf Southwest Section Young Faculty Award in 2008.  She serves as the Associate Chair for the BME Department.