Masthead for the Peirce-Cottler Lab at the University of Virginia
Peirce-Cottler Lab image montage



The Important Role of the Microcirculation:

Every organ in the body is dependent on blood flow to provide the necessary oxygen and nutrients in order to stay alive. The circulatory system is responsible for delivering blood to and from all of the tissues, and the microcirculation is the set of the smallest blood vessels in the body. (Microvessels are less than 100 micrometers in diameter, and they can only be visualized using a microscope!) Our research is interested in understanding how microvessels grow and remodel during normal physiological development and in the setting of different important diseases where their involvement in disease progression is absolutely central, such as heart disease, peripheral vascular disease, diabetic retinopathy, cancer, and chronic wound formation.

The Microcirculation in Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine:

We are are also interested in applying our knowledge of the microcirculation in order to grow new tissues (tissue engineering) and regenerate damaged tissues in the body (tissue regeneration). In fact, without a blood supply (ie. without microvessels) tissues beyond the small size of 1 cubic millimeter cannot survive in the body. Therefore, our research aims to address a critical bottleneck for all of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine aspirations: growing new functional and sustainable microvessels that can deliver blood to the tissues that we are trying to heal and/or replace.

Specific Research Goals:

The overarching goals of our research are to: 1) understand how tissues, or collections of biological cells and their extracellular matrix environment, grow and adapt in response to physiological and pathological environmental (i.e. biochemical and mechanical) stimuli, and 2) use this information to develop therapeutic strategies for invoking/promoting tissue regeneration and repair. We are predominantly interested in pursuing these goals within the context of the adult microvascular system, which is essential in many human diseases, including heart disease, cancer, and chronic wounds. All of our projects combine multi-cell computational modeling with experimental analyses.

Specific Design Goals:

In addition to designing new cell-based and drug-based therapies for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, we are also interested in medical device design. In collaborations with our clinical partners we have developed new surgical instruments, diagnostic tools, and medical teaching kits for a range of applications in otolaryngology, ophthalmology, and pediatrics. Link to uTube video about ENT device design in the Peirce-Cottler Laboratory

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