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Lee’s Blog Explains His Implantable Biomaterial Research in Mice

Jungwoo Lee

Jungwoo Lee

Professor Jungwoo Lee of our Chemical Engineering Department was recently the co-author of an article published in Biomaterials Research that reports a new advance in human tissue engineering applied to mouse models. BioMed Central later asked Professor Lee to explain this research in a blog article. As part of a team of researchers from UMass Amherst and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Lee and his colleagues developed a new bioengineering strategy to improve humanized mouse models and the throughput of in vivo research using implantable biomaterials. See the blog.

As Lee wrote about the background of his research, “Immunodeficient mice can accept human cells/tissue for long-term study without rejecting them. This animal model system has opened a door to studying human stem and cancer cell biology in the context of a living system, informing basic knowledge of human biology as well as testing hypotheses on real human tissue for clinical translation.”

For example, as Lee noted, patient-derived cancer cells can be transplanted in mice to study a patient’s particular drug responses before a clinical trial.

“However,” Lee added, “transplanting human cells into a mouse recipient may not be enough to assure relevant human function – emerging evidence indicates that absence of human-derived support cells and local factors negatively influences the growth and function of human stem and cancer cells in an immunodeficient mouse.”

Lee explained that previous approaches have expressed human cytokines and growth factors in a mouse by genetic engineering techniques, though these methods expose the entire mouse to the specific factor and can have off-target effects that confound interpretation of local tissue analysis.

“This paper describes a new method to achieve sustained release of desired human cytokines in a local and controllable fashion,” wrote Lee in his blog, “by integrating genetically engineered stromal cells into implantable biomaterials.”

Lee concluded that “This bioengineering approach using genetically engineered cells and scaffolds is versatile and readily applicable to other human molecules. Currently we are developing collaboration with investigators at the UMass Medical School to improve the engraftment and function of patients-derived cancer cells in immunodeficient mouse models. My group also actively explores other bioengineering strategies to overcome the fundamental limitation of immunodeficiency and the gap between mouse and human studies. We envision that advances in human tissue engineering applied to mouse models can enable more relevant microenvironmental analysis of human stem and cancer cells for clinical research and accelerate the rate of discovery.”

The overall goal of Lee’s research group is to deliver enabling and translational platform technologies that can advance basic biomedical research, solve various medical problems, and ultimately improve patient care. Lee’s team designs and manufactures a broad range of materials to construct standardized, functional human tissue models and apply multi-dimensional imaging techniques to quantitatively capture complex, dynamic biological processes. (July 2016)