Salman Khetani, Ph.D., Associate Professor, leads the Microfabricated Tissue Models Laboratory, which is dedicated to improving human health through engineered tissue systems, including liver, cardiac, and intestine currently. The systems are useful for screening toxic drugs in vitro prior to reaching human clinical trials through organ-on-a- chip) modeling aspects of global human diseases for the development of better therapeutics (drug discovery), and cell based therapies for patients suffering from end- stage disease through regenerative medicine. He has published more than 45 articles in peer-reviewed journals and his work has been cited more than 4,100 times by his fellow researchers. Khetani has also received numerous awards and honors throughout his career, including a NSF Career award, Departmental Rising Star Award from the UIC College of Medicine, College of Engineering Teaching Award, and a School of Biomedical Engineering Teaching Excellence Award.
The liver is the largest internal organ of the body with more than 500 functions, in categories such as the breakdown of food (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats), detoxification of drugs and other chemicals, and production of clotting factors that aid in wound healing. Many diseases affect the liver such as hepatitis B/C viral infections, fatty liver disease, malaria, and cancer. Currently, there is a severe shortage of donor livers for patients who have an end-stage liver disease and are waiting for a liver transplant. Therefore, the Microfabricated Tissue Models (MTM) laboratory in the Department of Bioengineering at University of Illinois at Chicago specializes in engineering human liver tissues (mini-livers) for implantation into patients who urgently need a liver transplant. These mini-livers can also be used for screening toxic drugs before they reach patients, and for mimicking liver diseases such as diabetes and hepatitis for developing better therapeutics. The MTM lab is composed of students and research staff members who work at the interdisciplinary interface of life sciences and engineering. The BEST fellow in the MTM lab will first learn the basics of cell culture, biochemical assays, quantitative polymerase chain reaction, and micropatterning of cells. The fellow will then apply these skills to creating a mini human liver for screening the toxicity of drugs. Depending on the fellow’s interest and training, additional participation in modeling liver diseases using the mini-liver will be facilitated. The fellow will be required to present the data acquired to the members of the MTM laboratory in both oral and written formats. Ultimately, the skills the fellow will learn in the MTM laboratory can be translated to an educational setting whereby younger students are exposed to the advances being made in the exciting field of tissue engineering.