Nowhere like Home: Characterising and Reconstructing Tissue Microenvironments

5 May 2017
Monash University, 381 Royal Parade, Parkville, Pharm-Annex Large Meeting Room 404.5.06


Most cells in our bodies are embedded in a complex matrix of extracellular molecules. These tissue-specific and dynamic microenvironments are essential for the functioning of the cells. But exactly what these microenvironments, or so-called "cell niche", are doing to the cells? Can we capture the "design principles" of these complex matrices on engineered microsystems, and guide in vitro cultured cells to form and function as a tissue? Traditional two-dimensional cell culture systems have been used to investigate the roles of tissue microenviroments. Overwhelming evidence shows the extracellular environments play crucial roles in regulating cell functions and differentiation.  But these experimental systems are often too simplistic to reflect the complexity of the natural microenvironment. On the other hand, native tissue microenvironments, such as those provided by decellularised organs, are too complex to be reverse-engineered into model systems that can be studied and applied. This talk summarises our lab's recent attempt to deconstruct tissue microenvironments into their biochemical and architectural components, and investigate the roles of each components in guiding adult stem cell differentiation. The objective of this seminar is to introduce an interdisciplinary audience to the nature and challenges of our research question, and to present some of the approaches we used to tackle it. Discussion with the cell biologists, bioengineers, materials scientists after the talk will hopefully bring forth fresh and creative ideas on this project.

Time: Friday 5th May, 11:30 am - 12:30 pm

Biography of the guest speaker

Dr. Lam Yun Wah received his PhD training in the lab of Dr. Davina Opstelten at the University of Hong Kong. After receiving his PhD in 1996, he joined the group of Prof. Angus Lamond in Dundee, Scotland, where he developed an interest in the relationship of the architecture of mammalian cell nucleus and the regulation of gene expression. Lam uses live-cell imaging techniques and classical biochemical approaches to study protein localization and interactions in the cell nucleus. In parallel, he is involved in an international effort to characterise the human nucleolus proteome. In 2007, he joined the Department of Biology and Chemistry, City University of Hong Kong. His multi-disciplinary team uses quantitative mass spectrometry to measure the flux of proteins through subcellular spaces and to track the proteomic changes within cellular complexes through time. In complement, they record these dynamic cellular behaviours in live cells using time-lapse fluorescence microscopy. From these two angles, they aim at building coherent pictures of intracellular events under different growth and metabolic conditions. Projects that have emerged from his lab in recent years include the characterization of protein flux through the nucleolus, the plasma membrane, the mitochondrion, and the extracellular matrix under various physiological conditions.