Abigail Oelker

Postdoctoral Associate (Co-advisor: Linda Griffith)
B.S. in Chemical Engineering, Lehigh University
Ph.D. in Chemistry, Boston University

3D Microenvironments for Mesenchymal Stem Cell Migration

A combination of soluble and structural cues regulates the behavior and phenotype of bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). MSCs are uniquely able to regenerate bone and other structural tissues; however, the triggers that stimulate this behavior as well as the conditions necessary to support stem cell differentiation are poorly understood. The goal of my research is to design well-defined scaffolds that support in vitro adhesion, proliferation, and migration of this cell type. The behavior of cells in these scaffolds will allow me to investigate the factors that guide MSC activity - information that is critical for the design of tissue engineering scaffolds and stem cell associated therapeutics.

Multiplexed, Real-time Protease Detection

Current methods for analyzing the activity of cell surface and secreted enzymes do not allow for real time detection of multiple enzyme types. For this reason, the Hammond and Griffith research groups are collaborating to develop protease sensors, in which layer-by-layer assembly of probe-conjugated polymers will enable the simultaneous detection of mixed enzyme activity. The sensors designed in this project will be immediately applicable to the study of diseases such as endometriosis, in which enzyme activity is dysfunctional, as well as the detection of rare cells from complex cell mixtures.