Mechanobiology, Stem Cells and Heart Valves

Fri, 11/09/2012 - 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

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
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