. Kshitiz, Ph.D.Assistant Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering
Investigator, Yale Center of Cancer Systems Biology
Visiting Faculty, Yale University
|B.S.||Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay||Computer Science|
|Ph.D.||Johns Hopkins School of Medicine||Biomedical Engineering|
Our lab’s objective is to understand a cell’s interaction with its neighbors and the microenvironment. With a particular focus on tumor microenvironment, we aim to unravel the language cells employ to converse with each other, how the grammar and the content of the langage adapt to the environment, and how cells behave in response. We use a gamut of of techniques, including live microscopy, bioinformatics, tissue engineering, nanofabrication, cell patterning, evolutionary biology, and genetics to answer fundamental questions in biology and medicine.
Our current physiological focus involves understanding how new phenotypes emerge within cancer populations by their neighborly interactions; the evolutionary basis of metastatic tolerance; as well as cardiac maturation for disease modeling.
When we think of cancer, we mostly think of cells constituting the neoplastic part of cancer. But a cancerous lesion consists of many other cell types, which could resist, or help in its progression. These “stromal cells” consist of activated fibroblasts, macrophages, endothelial cells, as well as the specialized environment modulated by these cells. In our lab, we attempt to systematically understand how cancer and stromal cells interact with each other using a variety of approaches, including microfluidics, nanotechnology, live cell imaging, and genetic screens. We aim to elucidate the mechanisms through which stroma facilitates cancer to grow, become invasive, and resistant to chemotherapeutic drugs.
Hypoxia and Metabolism
Tumors are frequently hypoxic, and glycolytic. Their metabolic pathways are rerouted to help tumor cells continue to divide rapidly under lack of oxygen, and unavailability of certain nutrients. We study how lactate, a byproduct of anaerobic glycolysis, and accompanied acidosis in the microenvironment influences cancer phenotypes. We have found that lactate can increase ROS production in the cells, and increase autophagy. Using in vitro and in silico models of cancer combined with live cell microscop, we aim to explore the role of lactate in regulating cancer growth and metastasis.
Systems Cell Biology
Mammals exhibit different rates of metastasis, which interestingly correlates with the subtype of placentation during pregnancy. Based on these, and many other evidence, we are advancing a new paradigm of cancer metastasis called: Evolved Levels of Invasability (ELI) suggesting that stromal resistance (or assistance) to cancer invasion is evolutionarily derived.
This paradigm presents a roadmap to observe the stromal compartment in cancer as a crucial player in regulating cancer phenotypes, as well as providing new avenues to understand and target cancer dissemination and metastasis.
Mechanobiology and Cardiac Maturation
Cells, like all of us, live in a matrix. And the nature of the matrix could determine important functions of the cells, including their shape, migration speeds, fate, proliferative state, as well as metabolism. We focus on understanding how matrix rigidity and topography regulates cell signaling, and metabolism, as well as utilize mechanobiology for cardiac maturation.
In our lab, we use a variety of tools to both elucidate the signaling machinery involved in mechanotransduction, as well as utilize the gained knowledge for specific therapeutic purposes by bioengineering. A dedicated effort in our lab focuses on creating mature, adult-like cardiac tissues from human pluripotent cell sources as a surrogate for drug screening.
Accepting Lab Rotation Students: Summer 2021, Fall 2021, and Spring 2022