The Center for Engineering Cells and Regeneration
Science is a discovery-driven culture. Engineering is an innovation-driven culture. To be able to tackle the challenging issues of our times, it is imperative that different knowledge and expertise cultures integrate across academic disciplines. At Penn Engineering, the new Center for Engineering Cells and Regeneration is promoting this integration of cultures with enhanced partnership geared to define new educational offerings, advance science and engineering, and transfer innovation to industry.
The Center for Engineering Cells and Regeneration (CECR) is pursuing a broad intellectual and research agenda at a level they expect will achieve international impact and visibility. At the CECR, collaborative focus is on engineering cells and tissues. Research projects delve into how cells, tissues and organs undergo adaptive or maladaptive responses to aging, stress or injury; and how selecting, modifying and reprogramming cells can help heal wounds, restore tissues or be applied to conditions like diabetes, heart failure and paralysis.
This is a new science that challenges current understanding about how cells work. That challenge needs to be answered via the combination and cooperation of intellect. “This science is not a single discipline, but requires the multidisciplinary integration of engineering, biology, chemistry, physics and medicine,” says Chen.
This team effort is breaking ground in the interface between bioengineering technologies like biomaterials, cell engineering and quantitative cell biology, and is positioning Penn as a national leader in the field. “No existing center or institute nationally appears to have captured this space quite the way that Penn has,” says Chen.
Key to the impetus of the center is the renowned faculty membership, with wide-reaching experience in polymeric biomaterials, molecular engineering, molecular imaging, orthopaedic biomechanics and cell biology and physiology. “Penn boasts arguably the most decorated and noted collection of researchers in the world in mechanobiology, which encompasses the study of cell mechanics, tissue mechanics, cell adhesion to materials, and how mechanics impacts biological processes,” says Chen. “We are also highly visible in our work on stem cell engineering. These strengths will be capitalized upon by the CECR.”
Chen, who is also a faculty member of the Cell Biology and Physiology Program, Cell Growth and Cancer Program, and director of the Tissue Microfabrication Laboratory, sees his director responsibilities for CECR as part of his overall dedication to goal achievement: identifying the underlying mechanisms by which cells interact with materials and coordinate with each other to build tissues, and to apply this knowledge to engineer cells to heal tissues.
Credit: Penn Engineering Magazine, “Erasing Boundaries: Two New Penn Centers Integrate Science and Engineering,” by Amy Biemiller.