BME Seminar Series: Dr. Chelsey S. Simmons, University of Florida
"Engineering the Mechanical Microenvironment: Stromal Contributions to Regeneration and Cancer"
Research in the Simmons Lab works to understand the feedback loop between cell-level processes and tissue-level mechanics. Stromal cells like fibroblasts and stellate cells often dominate remodeling processes associated with pathologies like fibrosis and cancer, but the intricate dance between stromal, parenchymal, and malignant cells is poorly understood. To understand the mechanics of mammalian regeneration, we leverage a novel animal model, the African Spiny Mouse, that is capable of regenerating skin, cardiac muscle, and skeletal muscle without fibrosis. We have developed a complementary suite of tools to investigate fibroblast mechanics to understand mechanisms of regeneration that may translate to humans. For pancreatic cancer, we apply these tools to mimic the tumor microenvironment in a patient-specific manner. With our custom microtissues and characterization equipment, we have observed that soluble factors from pancreatic cancer cells can induce stromal cell remodeling and stiffening of the tumor microenvironment similar to that seen in patients.
Chelsey S. Simmons, Ph.D., joined the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the University of Florida in Fall 2013, following a visiting research position at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich. Her research lab investigates the relationship among cell biology and tissue mechanics, and their projects are funded by the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, and American Heart Association. She has received numerous fellowships and awards, including BMES-CMBE's Rising Star Award (2017) and ASME's New Faces Award (2015). In addition to her engineering research and coursework, Simmons received a Ph.D. Minor in Education and is the PI of a $600k Research Experiences for Teachers Site. She teaches undergraduate Mechanics of Materials and graduate BioMEMS courses and received Teacher of the Year in 2017. Simmons received her B.S. cum laude from Harvard University and her M.S. and Ph.D. from Stanford University.