Juan M. Melero-Martin, PhD
Stem cells and tissue engineering hold great promise in Regenerative Medicine. However, engrafting stem cells and generating tissues with stable functional vascular beds remain major challenges. Our laboratory is interested in understanding how vascular networks are formed and the mechanisms by which the vasculature modulates the activity of various human stem cells.
We specialize in the biology of human Endothelial Colony-Forming Cells (ECFCs). These ECFCs are progenitors of endothelial cells that circulate in cord blood and adult peripheral blood and have enormous potential in Regenerative Medicine because they can generate large amounts of autologous endothelial cells for vascular therapies. We also specialize in methods to bioengineer functional microvascular networks in vivo. Our approach combines human endothelial cells with human mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) into a biocompatible hydrogel to form organized vascular networks that when implanted into immunodeficient mice join with the host vasculature. This model is ideally suited for studies on the cellular and molecular mechanisms of human vascular network formation and for developing strategies to bioengineer vascularized tissues. In addition, our model allows us to study the mechanisms by which the endothelium modulates the activity of co-transplanted stem cells and to elucidate how tissue-specific endothelial cells influence the cross-talk that occurs between these stem cells and the vasculature.
Lastly, the ability to bioengineer vasculature creates the possibility to introduce additional instructions into the engineered tissues by genetically editing the endothelial cells that build these blood vessels. We are developing models that use genetically-engineered endothelial cells to achieve controlled delivery of therapeutic proteins in vivo. One example includes our current efforts to bioengineer autologous human microvessels that deliver coagulation factor VIII to treat hemophilia A.
Dr. Melero-Martin graduated in Chemical Engineering from University of Seville, Spain, in 1998. After working three years in industry, he went on to earn a PhD in biochemical engineering from the University of Birmingham, UK, in 2005. From 2005 to 2008, he trained as a post-doctoral fellow in the Vascular Biology Program at Boston Children's Hospital. He joined the Department of Cardiac Surgery at Children's Hospital in 2008.
Research team pursues techniques to improve elusive stem cell therapy
June 30, 2014