Shayn Peirce-Cottler, PhD
Structural and functional adaptations of the microvasculature – the smallest blood vessels in our body — are important drivers of normal growth and development and wound healing, and these processes also contribute in substantial ways to major diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. In our lab, we develop and use experimental and computational techniques to study the cascade of molecular signals and cell interactions that lead to the growth and remodeling of new microvessels. We also use this knowledge to design new approaches for growing and regenerating injured and diseased tissues by manipulating the structure and composition of the microvasculature.
Much of our recent research is focused on better understanding the role of the microvascular “pericyte”, a cell that enwraps capillaries and plays numerous key roles in regulating microvascular health. Pericytes are known to stabilize new capillaries, regulate vascular permeability, and serve as tissue-resident progenitor cells that can also orchestrate immune cell trafficking. Our recent research suggests that environmental stress, such as that due to inflammation and diabetes, deleteriously affects pericyte function, leading to destabilization of the microvasculature. We are currently investigating the role of stem cell transcription factors in regulating pericyte plasticity and developing cell-based approaches for repopulating tissues where pericyte function has become compromised due to disease.