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K-State Today

February 19, 2020

Tissue engineering seminar: Auto-immune disease, 3D-printed bile ducts and bioreactor design

Submitted by Steve Warren

Dr. Joanna Thomas, Mercer University

K-State faculty and students are invited to attend a tissue engineering seminar offered from 3:30-5 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 20, in the Ice Conference Room, Engineering Hall, 1139 DUE, Carl R. Ice College of Engineering.

The seminar, "Growing a Research Lab at a Primarily Undergraduate Institution from R1 Roots: IL-33 and Asthma to 3D Printed Bile Ducts," will be facilitated by Joanna Thomas, K-State alumna and assistant professor of biomedical engineering and coordinator of undergraduate research at Mercer University School of Engineering, Macon, Georgia.

Abstract: Our immune system is a feedback loop connected to essentially every process in our body and when the system, or even just a minor player, goes astray, we suffer the consequences. Our innate immune system is our first line of defense against pathogens. It holds the "bugs" at bay until the full brigade arrives, i.e. our adaptive immune system kicks into gear. We run into trouble when the innate cells don’t yield their duties to the adaptive cells, or when they share the wrong reconnaissance info. I’ll share my findings from studies during my time at UCSD on the innate immune system’s role, and more specifically, interleukin-33’s role, in the etiology of asthma. Asthma is one of many autoimmune conditions; after I arrived at Mercer, in a moment of ‘6 degrees of separation’, I connected my work in pulmonary immunology to inflammatory conditions in the liver. Currently, research in my laboratory centers around improving therapies for primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), an autoimmune disease that over time can destroy the bile ducts in the liver. To date, there are few treatments available for the disease, and patients often ultimately require liver transplants. My lab is focused on 3D printing an improved in vitro biliary stent testing system and new patient-specific biliary stents to treat PSC. I’ll discuss my teams’ latest progress with our 3D printed extrahepatic bile duct model, our 3D printed self-expanding biliary stents, as well as our plans for a stent testing bioreactor and pharmacological stent improvements.

This seminar is part of the 2020 Distinguished Lecture Series supported by the K-State Mike Wiegers Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. It is jointly hosted by the K-State Biomedical Engineering Program and the K-State Student Chapter of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society.