PittPharmacy Assistant Professor Shilpa Sant, PhD was named one of the eleven 2017 Young Innovators of Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering (CMBE). Sant’s work is featured in the Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering October 2017 issue

Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering, an official journal of the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES), publishes research that advances the study and control of mechanical, chemical, and electrical processes of the cell. Each year, the editors of CMBE dedicate the Young Innovators special issue to highlighting the work of assistant professors conducting innovative bioengineering research at the molecular, cellular, and multi-cellular level.

Sant’s research focuses on developing physiologically relevant in vitro disease models and developing novel therapies to combat these diseases. In the 2017 CMBE Young Innovator issue, Sant along with a PittPharmacy graduate student, Yingfei Xue and collaborators (PittPharmacy, UPMC and McGowan Institute) report their work on reactive oxygen species (ROS)-modulating shape-specific cerium oxide nanoparticles (CNPs) as a therapeutic strategy to inhibit oxidative stress-induced heart valve calcification. Indeed, elevated levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in valve tissue have been identified as a prominent hallmark and driving factor for valvular calcification, which still remains a significant clinical challenge without effective pharmacological treatments. To address this, Sant and colleagues developed oxidative stress-induced valve calcification model using valve interstitial cells (hVICs) isolated from two patients with stenotic valves and a healthy donor. They demonstrated that hVICs derived from calcified valves exhibited impaired antioxidant defense mechanisms and were more susceptible to oxidative stress than normal hVICs. They further demonstrated therapeutic effect of ROS-modulating shape-specific cerium oxide nanoparticles (CNPs) to inhibit oxidative stress-induced valvular calcification. CNPs are a class of self-regenerative ROS-modulating agents, which can switch between Ce3+ and Ce4+ in response to the surrounding oxidative microenvironment.

Building on this work, Sant and co-authors envision to create three-dimensional valve calcification model using human cells so that it can be further extended for testing potential therapies. They also envision that self-regenerative cerium oxide nanoparticles will be useful platform to balance ROS for many other diseases where excessive oxidative stress in implicated in disease progression.

As a 2017 CMBE Young Innovator, Sant will present her research in a special, two-part invited platform session on Friday, October 13 at the 2017 Annual Meeting of BMES in Phoenix, Arizona.

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