The objective of the McGuigan lab is to develop experimental systems to understand and control cellular morphogenesis tissue engineering applications.
Through tissue engineering the McGuigan lab is addressing the central question “How do cells make and coordinate architectural decisions in response to combinations of signaling cues?” Answering this question will fundamentally improve our understanding of embryo morphogenesis and other morphogenetic process such as wound healing, tissue regeneration, tissue integration, and tissue disorganization in disease. Applying this fundamental information will provide new therapeutic strategies for addressing problems in regenerative medicine such as engineering artificial tissues from stem cells, developing treatments for developmental diseases that result from incorrect tissue formation, and developing in vitro drug screening culture models to develop therapies for diseases like cancer or heart disease.
Tissue engineering seeks to develop advanced health technologies to regenerate and model normal and diseased tissues. During natural tissue assembly and regeneration processes, cells are recruited and re-organized into a specific architecture. For example, during wound healing or regeneration replacement cells, often stem cells, are recruited and re-organized into a specific arrangement to generate new tissue. The functionality of the tissue depends critically on correct incorporation and re-organization of the cells during the regenerative process. Understanding how cell re-organization (termed morphogenesis) is regulated and how it can be controlled is a central problem in tissue engineering. In contrast, in diseases, such as cancer, cells in the tissue re-organize incorrectly as the disease spreads. Understanding cell re-organization therefore could also provide a basis for identifying novel disease therapies.
Dr. McGuigan is an Assistant Professor and Director of the McGuigan Lab for Tissue Morphogenesis Engineering. Her research focuses on engineering functional artificial tissues as an important emerging strategy for treating patients who suffer from organ failure. Dr. McGuigan was awarded the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine Young Investigator Award in 2006, and an NSERC Discovery Accelerator grant in 2009.