Dr. Vunjak-Novakovic and her team of engineers, clinicians, and scientists are developing innovative technologies for engineering and studying human tissues. They are interested in regenerative medicine, tissue models for stem cell research, and “organs-on-a-chip” platforms for use in precision medicine.
Their laboratory is located in the Columbia University Medical Center, and has state of the art facilities for human stem cell and tissue engineering research. They are a founding member of the Stem Cell Core and Stem Cell Imaging Core, and are serving as the Bioreactor-Imaging Core of the national Tissue Engineering Resource Center founded to foster tissue engineering for medical impact. They are actively collaborating with colleagues at Columbia University, nationwide, and around the world. To translate their science into new therapeutic modalities, their lab has launched three biotech companies: epiBone (epibone.com), Tara(tarabiosystems.com), and East River Biosolutions (eastriverbio.com) that are all based in New York City.
To engineer a range of human tissue/organ systems, they provide the cells with native-like environments, using biomaterial scaffolds (templates for tissue formation) and bioreactors (culture systems enabling environmental control and signaling). They design biomaterial scaffolds by processing the native tissue matrix to recapitulate the composition, architecture, and mechanical properties of the native cell niche, for applications ranging from biological research to clinical delivery of therapeutic materials and cells. They design bioreactors for engineering human-scale tissues for regenerative medicine: bone, cartilage, heart muscle, and lung. In each case, the bioreactor is custom-designed to accommodate a specific tissue (such as the exact anatomy of a bone graft), to provide perfusion (such as air ventilation and vascular perfusion for supporting the lung), and to apply physical forces (such as dynamic loading to cartilage and bone, electromechanical conditioning to the heart muscle, hydrodynamic shear to bone and vasculature). They are also developing microscale bioreactors for studies of stem cell differentiation, modeling of diseases, and drug development. Bioreactors are integrated with imaging so that the changes in tissue structure and function can be monitored in real time.