BTRL was founded in August of 2006 with the overall mission to provide viable solutions to treatment of degenerative diseases, focusing on cardiovascular and orthopedic systems.
Cardiovascular disorders include diseases of the heart muscle (ischemia, fibrosis), heart valves and blood vessels (degeneration and calcification, atherosclerosis, arteriosclerosis, aneurysms). Clinical consequences of these diseases include impairment of blood distribution and limited supply of oxygen and nutrients to essential organs such as the brain, lungs, liver, kidney and the heart.
Orthopedic diseases may affect the bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles and nerves. These may be due to inflammation, arthritis, trauma, auto-immune reactions and connective tissue sickness. Our group focuses specifically on regeneration of intervertebral disc components and improved healing of joint surgeries such as shoulder and knee reconstructions.
In order to develop effective treatments, we focus on understanding cellular and molecular mechanisms of pathological scenarios. For a majority of degenerative diseases there is no pharmacologic drug therapy available and the only alternative is to surgically replace diseased tissues with artificial devices. These include synthetic and tissue-derived biomaterials shaped in the form of heart valves for treatment of valve diseases, patches for treatment of cardiac diseases, tubular grafts for arterial and venous occlusions, implants to replace spine, knee and shoulder joints. These non-living devices restore the required function, but fail in the long term due to poor biological integration leading to undesired thrombosis, degeneration, loosening or degeneration.
Three goals fuel our excitement:
1) Biocompatibility: understanding the basics of biocompatibility at the molecular level and development of advanced, compatible biomaterials to be used in tissue repair or as replacement artificial tissues and organs
2) Regenerative Therapies: bioengineering approaches for regeneration of diseased tissues using adult stem cells and natural scaffolds
3) Translational Medicine: implementation of our research findings and novel scaffold-based therapies into patient-tailored regenerative medicine.
To reach these goals, we combine input from the clinical setting (surgery, animal models of human diseases) and from basic biomedical knowledge (biochemistry, cell biology, transplant immunology) with engineering principles (design and construction of medical devices, bioreactors, biomechanics) in such a way as to improve performances of currently available medical devices, as well as to develop novel regenerative treatments.
From the inception of the laboratory, our interdisciplinary efforts have always been endowed with a strong sense of outreach and education. Our research activities are continuously integrated with the graduate and undergraduate classes we are teaching, thus providing students with real-life perspectives on the present and the future of bioengineering. We also openly foster undergraduate research activities at various levels of involvement and have opened our laboratory doors to high school students and their teachers.