Shang Song lab focuses on using engineering approaches and biomaterials to control cell functions for developing organ-on-chip systems and implantable constructs. Lab research profile spans several areas including creating multicellular interfaces with microfluidics for neural applications; conductive biomaterials and neural stem cells for neuromuscular regenerative rehabilitation; cell encapsulation for diabetes; and bone tissue engineering applications.
About 6.2 million people live with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia in the US. The treatment costs the nation $355 billion (2021) with a projected expense of $1.1 trillion in 2050 (in 2021 dollars). More than 83% of the help to patients actually come from family members, friends, or other unpaid caregivers, including my own. There is great personal and professional urgency to develop and translate new treatment methods for this “incurable” disease.
Translating scientific discoveries from animal models for curing human diseases can be very challenging, especially in the areas of neurodegenerative diseases. Animal models often don’t fully recapture human conditions due to differences in physiology, anatomy, injury mechanism, and regenerative potential. Additionally, animal research can be costly and time-consuming. Our goal is to create neurovascular units consisted of multiple cell types with microfluidic techniques to recapitulate the native physiological microenvironment in the brain. The organ-on-chip system will help us understand the biological development, multi-cellular interaction, and disease modeling and provide important insights for screening of neurologic drugs and treatments.
Development of a multifunctional device to mimic multicellular tissue interface
The motivation behind developing the biomimetic cellular platform is that many physiological processes are complex and dynamic involving spatiotemporal regulation of physical, chemical, and electrical signals. Our goal is to use engineering approaches, biomaterials, and cell technologies to design a versatile device that can manipulate these cues. In doing so, the multifunctional device can 1) mimic the natural physiologic processes to study tissue and organ development; 2) understand the synergistic effects as well as creating biases in signaling to drive cell behaviors; 3) maximize the therapeutic potential of cellular response to design better regenerative strategies; and 4) screen potential drug candidates and personalize medicine for treatments.
The platform aims to generate insights and treatment strategies in the following areas: 1) peripheral nerve injuries that result in sustained nerve damage due to motor vehicle accidents, combat trauma, as well as neoplastic, vascular, and compression disorders; 2) muscle atrophy associated with aging and loss of nerve innervation; 3) islet health for type 1 diabetes; 4) bone tissue engineering; and 5) personalized cancer treatment with patients’ own tumor cells.