This image shows the nuclei of proliferating (red) and quiescent (dark grey) human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC) cultured in vitro.
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Our laboratory conducts experimental and computational research in biomedical acoustics and biomechanics of circulating cells.

Our main interest is to understand how living cells, tissues and biological polymers respond to mechanical stresses induced by acoustic waves. We investigate the interactions between acoustic waves (specifically, ultrasonic waves) and biological matter using in vitro and in vivo experimental systems. This research has several important biomedical applications, and our current focus is on development of focused ultrasound-based noninvasive or minimally invasive therapies for cancer, spinal cord injury and neurodegenerative diseases.

Using endothelium-lined microfluidic systems and state-of-the-art computational models, we study the migration, deformation and adhesion of circulating cells under the conditions of cancer metastasis, inflammation and cardiovascular disease.

We collaborate with scientists, engineers, and clinicians from Tulane University, Boston University, UCLA, MIT and other leading research institutes and hospitals. Our projects have been funded by the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, Department of Defense, and American Heart Association. Highly motivated undergraduate and graduate students are welcome to join the laboratory.

Lab highlights

  • Focused ultrasound can reduce the metastatic potential of cancer cells >>

    currently working on a manuscript for Nature Medicine ...

    Our recent in vitro experiments show that the exposure of prostate cancer cells to a combination of ethanol injection and high-intensity focused ultrasound reduces the ability of these cells to adhere to vascular endothelium. This indicates that the cells that survived this combination treatment have a reduced metastatic potential than untreated cells. Now, we are testing whether a reduction in metastatic potential occurs in other cancer cells (liver, breast, kidney cancers) exposed to ethanol and focused ulrasound.

  • Our acoustic tweezing method is a novel, robust technique for whole blood coagulation monitoring >>

    recently awarded by a NSF I-Corps grant ...

    We have recently patented a non-contact method and device for rheological measurements of polymeric and biological fluids, referred to as "acoustic tweezing rheometry" or "acoustic tweezing thromboelastometry". Our first clinical studies clearly show the ability of this technique to detect the onset times for blood coagulation and mature blood clot formation and to measure the clot stiffness for normal blood and blood exposed to pro- and anti-coagulants. We are currently testing this technique on blood from coagulopathic patients.

  • Tumor spheroids of large size can be grown in PDMS wells >>

    We are applying our patented "PDMS well" method to grow multicellular tumor spheroids with an effective diameter exceeding 2 mm. These large tumor spheroids are used in tumor ablation experiments and testing other therapies for cancer.

  • Oxidized lipoproteins cause endothelial dysfunction via activation of tissue-resident cells >>

    supported by a NIH R01 grant...

    Using our endothelium-lined microfluidic channels, we investigate the role of inflammatory mediators produced by tissue resident cells on circulating cell adhesion to vascular or lymphatic endothelium during allergy, atherosclerosis, thrombosis, sickle cell disease, and cancer metastasis. Our recent data point out an important synergistic role of oxidized lipoprotein-activated macrophages and mast cells in endothelial dysfunction and early atherosclerosis.

  • VECAM-Active is the first computational algorithm to simulate active migration of motile cells in 3-D >>

    unique model for chemotactic and haptotactic migration of cells on a deformable substrate or inside a viscoelastic tissue...

    We have developed a three-dimensional (3-D) computational algorithm, known as VECAM (ViscoElastic Cell Adhesion Model). VECAM integrates, for the first time, the cell's rheological properties, stochastic receptor-ligand binding, and physiologic shear flow conditions. Recently, this algorithm has been extended (VECAM-Active) to simulate chemoattractant-induced active migration of motile cells in 3-D or on an adhesive 2-D substrate. Using VECAM-Active, we now explore the mechanisms that govern chemotaxis, adhesion, and transendothelial migration of leukocytes and circulating tumor cells, which are key steps of the inflammatory response and cancer metastasis.