Developing stem cell and biomaterials based regenerative medicine therapies for treating musculoskeletal tissue damage and diseases.
Dr. Varghese's research laboratory is developing stem cell and biomaterials based therapies for treating various musculoskeletal tissue damages. The musculoskeletal system includes the bone, cartilage, muscle, and spine. These are exciting targets for regenerative medicine as the need for their replacement is high given their limited self-repairing ability. In fact, it is predicted that in USA alone, one person out of every five approaching the age of 65 will need some form of organ replacement therapy at least once in their lifetime. Her research focuses on developing novel biomaterials as temporary implants wherein the bioresorbable material will provide a microenvironment to promote wound healing via stem cell recruitment, differentiation, and functional integration. Such biomimicking materials while stimulating directional growth will gradually yield way for natural tissue as tissue regeneration proceeds. Another focus area in Varghese lab is stem cell biology. Stem cells have been posed as the answer to debilitating degenerative and genetic diseases. However, translation of stem cell based therapies from the 'bench' to the 'bedside' requires a complete understanding of stem cell niche, its role in stem cell commitment, and the cascade of complex signals that regulate spatiotemporal differentiation and proliferation of stem cells. Our laboratory is interested in understanding the cellular signaling pathways that play a crucial role in stem cells fate and commitment, and harnessing them in conjunction with biopolymers to engineer functionally viable tissues (bone and muscle) for regenerative medicine. This involves developing molecularly-engineered polymeric structures to control the commitment of stem cells towards the desired tissue; dissecting the cell-environment interactions to understand stem cell biology, disease progression, and developmental processes; deriving progenitor cells; and translating these fundamental understandings and technologies into clinical applications in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine
Shyni Varghese joined the Jacobs School Bioengineering faculty in 2007. She comes to the Bioengineering department following a post-doc at Johns Hopkins University where her work with stem cell differentiation and hydrogel-based biomaterials established a broad foundation for solving biomedical problems and addressing scientific questions relating to tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. She was also a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Notre Dame where she developed new polymeric materials for spinal fixation and articular cartilage replacement. She received a Ph.D. (2002) in Polymer Engineering from India's National Chemical Laboratory, an M.S. (1995) in Polymer Science from Pune University, and a B.S. (1993) in Chemistry, Physics and Mathematics from M.G. University in Kerala, India.