Ben Almquist, Senior Lecturer, Imperial College London
Register here for the TIB Series (via Zoom)
Defective wound healing is a devastating medical condition, irrespective of where in the body it occurs. For instance, chronic non-healing skin wounds have been called a silent epidemic, with their persistent nature, pain, odour, contribution to reduced ambulatory function, increased risk of amputation, and significant reductions in 5-year survival rates all contribute to low self-esteem, self-loathing, and increases in anxiety, depression, and anger. Meanwhile, non-union fractures of bones such as the tibia score lower in quality of life surveys than acute myocardial infarction, AIDS, and T1 diabetes, with a one in two chance of not returning to work. Despite these significant impacts on individuals, and correspondingly large economic impacts, there is an astounding lack of innovative approaches carrying clinical approval for treating defective wound healing; in the area of skin repair, the last FDA approved pharmacologic treatment for chronic wounds was approved over 20 years ago!
In this talk, I will discuss our efforts to address defective wound healing by combining insights from materials science, nanotechnology, and biology. Recently, we have used inspiration from nature to develop a new method for controlling the delivery of bioactive proteins via cellular traction forces, in turn enabling opportunities to create ‘smart’ materials for dynamically modulating the tissue-level signalling that orchestrates wound repair. In other work, we are deciphering how cell signalling is disrupted in chronic non-healing wounds, aiming to understand how epigenetic mechanisms, such as microRNAs, play a role in facilitating the defective cell signalling that leads to ineffective biologic therapies. In the end, these research streams aim to build an understanding of how signalling networks are disrupted in non-healing wounds, how these disruptions can lead to effective patient stratification, and how we can rewire signalling to promote efficient repair.
Dr Ben Almquist is a Senior Lecturer (US equivalent: Associate Professor) in the Department of Bioengineering at Imperial. His research combines aspect of materials science, nanotechnology, and biology to develop methods for dynamically manipulating the behaviour of cells and tissues. A major focus of this research is to understand how to direct the process of tissue repair by manipulating signalling networks. These insights are then used to develop methods for healing diabetic foot ulcers, preventing hypertrophic scarring, and modulating other wound healing disorders. More information can be found on the lab website.
Before joining Imperial College, Dr Almquist obtained his BS in Materials Science from Michigan Technological University, followed by his MS and PhD in Materials Science from Stanford University. While at Stanford, Dr Almquist was also appointed as a Research Fellow in the Center for Probing the Nanoscale, a joint venture between Stanford, IBM, and the National Science Foundation. There he developed a bioinspired approach for integrating inorganic nanostructures with cellular membranes. Dr Almquist then went on to become an NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein Postdoctoral Fellow at the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and Institute for Solider Nanotechnologies at MIT, where his research focused on designing self-assembled biomaterials for modulating the healing of chronic wounds.
Topics in Bioengineering