Optimization and control of hepatocyte activity via biofunctional modification

Project: Research project

Project Details


Dr. Wertheim’s career goal is to become an independent investigator and physician-scientist in liver tissue engineering to advance the fields of transplantation and tissue engineered organs. He has demonstrated a continued commitment to this objective through his undergraduate training at MIT with Prof. Robert Langer, graduate research in cell adhesion at the Univ. of Pennsylvania and surgical training at the Massachusetts General Hospital and UCLA Medical Center. Together, Dr. Wertheim’s training as a transplant surgeon and scientific background in biomedical engineering provide a strong foundation for his proposed research in liver tissue engineering. Now at Northwestern University, his role is to develop a research program in liver tissue engineering, and he has unwavering support from his Department and mentors.
Dr. Wertheim’s immediate goal is to use the protected research time and mentorship structure of the K08 Award to enhance his knowledge and scientific research skills in liver pathobiology to effectively study hepatocellular function and response to 3D matrix environments with the eventual goal of developing a tissues engineered organ for therapeutic transplantation. Despite the development of protease inhibitors to treat Hepatitis C, liver disease will continue to be a major public health problem in the foreseeable future due to the obesity epidemic in the US leading to metabolic syndrome, nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), hypertension and diabetes. The increased incidence of obesity, and associated diseases, will not just increases the need for transplantable bioartificial livers, but other organs as well.
Dr. Wertheim’s lab has developed Small bioArtificial, Micro-sized Scaffolds (SAMS) that are made from an acellular rat liver scaffold. This environment allows the interaction of hepatocytes with extracellular matrix molecules, growth factors, and other cells to be studied in a controlled manner. His lab has also developed innovative flow bioreactors that are perfusion culture systems where hepatocytes grow within whole-organ 3D liver matrices derived from decellularized rodent tissue.
The goals of this proposal are to advance upon preliminary data indicating that the extracellular matrix in SAMS enhances the activity of hepatocytes developed using induced pluripotent stem cell technology (iPS-hepatocytes). The Aims are 1) To evaluate the influence of stellate cells, which regulate extracellular matrix remodeling, on the functioning of iPS-hepatocytes in SAMS and 2) To combine SAMS with novel signaling peptides that are more efficient than full-length matrix molecules, to further enhance iPS-hepatocyte function.
The scientific environment at Northwestern, the mentorship team and career development plan have been created around Dr. Wertheim’s objective to use protected time to enrich his knowledge and understanding of hepatocyte pathophysiology and nanotechnology to help “close the gap” created by surgical training. Dr. Janaradan Reddy is Dr. Wertheim’s primary mentor and an experienced physician-scientist in the Department of Pathology at Northwestern. Dr. Reddy’s laboratory has particular expertise in hepatocyte progenitor cell biology, cell isolation, development of animal models with liver-specific abnormalities and a particular focus on hepatotoxin-mediated hepatocarcinogenesis. Dr. Richard Green is the Chief of the Section of Hepatology at Northwestern. His research specializes in the molecular pathogenesis of hepatic bile salt metabolism. Dr. Samuel Stupp is a world-renowned researcher in nanotechnology. He
Effective start/end date5/1/143/31/19


  • National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (5K08DK101757-05)


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