The Silva lab’s research efforts focus on the field of translation stem cell bioengineering.
Our research aim is to develop new material platforms that enable one to control stem/progenitor cell trafficking in the body.
The lab is focused on mastering chemistry and biologically inspired design principles that will result in the develop of new material platforms that enables one to actively negotiate biological barriers, including endothelial walls found in vascular networks.
Currently the research in the Silva lab is actively exploring and developing research on the following topics/research goals:
1. Develop tools for studying stem cell pluripotency and differentiation:
2. Development of new materials systems that locally define and regulate homing sites: There exist a need to develop new strategies capable to actively control the localization of homing sites, and it is the purpose of my future research to tackle some of these challenges. This project aims to create material platforms that will locally define and regulate homing sites and will follow certain specific design principles including local minimally invasive application, controllable degradation and amenable of functionalization with biomolecular recognition cues. Essentially, we will be using degradable hydrogels that will be present both as soluble cues and insoluble cues: whereas soluble cues will be responsible to create a local chemoattractant gradient, insoluble cues will be critical to maintain local cell viability and functionality.
3. Design of a material system that provides the appropriate chemical and physical cues to control and manipulate endothelial cell extravasations: This project intends to better understand and ultimately to gain control over the progenitor cell trafficking within the vascular wall. In particular, the material presentation of cyclic RGDs will mediate the adhesion and this process of physical attachment of the hydrogel to the outside of the vascular wall via integrin machinery is intended to specifically upregulate the expression of α4β1 integrin ligand VCAM-1. The material platform will also mediate the local release of survival factors IL-7 and IL-15 that are responsible to promote expression of VCAM-1 and ICAM-1 on endothelial cells. Essentially, these design principles outlined here will ensure that the hydrogel loaded with factors and binding cues will be making a direct contact with the monolayer of endothelial cells. This will allow one to investigate the direct influence of these factors in regulating stem cells transmigration through vascular endothelial walls
4. Development of material systems that specifically target hypoxic regions in the body: The goal is to create sophisticated material systems that can seek out ischemic injured sites. In particular, this project will integrate nanoparticle technology, sophisticated biofunctionalization of polymeric systems and oxygen sensing chemistry to study and develop novel materials systems capable to precisely target ischemia. The key goal is to determine how sensitive for hypoxic regions these systems are and how much is accumulated in ischemic tissues.