17SL – Investigating Biomechanical-Induced Changes to Chemotherapeutic Responses

Status: Filled – Bryan Mortimer
Intern: Bryan Mortimer
Faculty Name: m-k-sewell-loftin
Primary Faculty Appointment: UAB
UAB/HA Department: Biomedical Engineering
Campus Address: WTI 630A
Telephone Number: (205) 934-0198
Email: mksewellloftin@uab.edu or Click to Send E-Mail
For how many summers have you served as a preceptor: 0
CCC Research Area: Cancer Biology & Immunology
Number of hours per week that the preceptor will personally supervise or work with the intern: 5
Other faculty, staff, or graduate students who may help to supervise the intern:
1. Joel Berry
2. Maranda Tidwell
Title of Project: 17SL – Investigating Biomechanical-Induced Changes to Chemotherapeutic Responses
Project Description:

Our lab focuses on how biomechanical factors affect tumor progression and angiogenesis. We utilize a microfluidic device made from poly(dimethylsiloxane), a clear polymer, that allows us to create small tissue mimics that contain multiple human cell lines including fibroblasts and endothelial cells (ECs). The ECs will organize into vascular networks, allowing us to interrogate how different biomechanical parameters (ECM composition, stiffness, etc.) affect blood vessel growth. Ongoing work in the lab is dedicated to understanding how cancer-associated fibroblast (CAFs) actively induce mechanical perturbations in the tumor microenvironment, and how these forces alter EC signaling to lead to angiogenesis and tumor progression. A new area of research for our lab is understanding how biomechanical changes (matrix composition/stiffness, interstitial flow, etc.) in microenvironment affect tumor cell proliferation rates and drug resistance. This project will focus specifically on processing and analyzing images of our 3D tumor platform to measure changes in (1) mechanical properties of the matrix, (2) angiogenesis, (3) tumor cell proliferation, and (4) resistance to first line chemotherapeutic agents such as cisplatin.

Project Status: Will begin on or before the CaRES student’s start date
Location of Project: Birmingham, AL (UAB)
Proposed Start Date: May 3, 2021
Proposed End Date: August 13, 2021
Expected work schedule for intern: Flexible, intern can largely set his or her own schedule (as for students who are instructed how to proceed and are permitted to work independently with weekly guidance) and should contribute full-time effort.
Number of days that the student will be expected to come physically to UAB:
0 – project will be fully virtual except for the required in-person checkpoint visits
Category of Project: Laboratory Research
Cancer topic: Breast, Ovary
Does this project involve human subjects: No
Does this project involve animal subjects: No

Optimize processing and analysis protocol for images of cancer cells and blood vessels in 3D microscopy images, 3D maps of mechanical activity, and Western blot densitometry measurements; basic protocols and techniques exist currently and will be taught to the intern by Dr. Sewell-Loftin


Perform quantitative analyses on data and image sets, including appropriate statistical analyses; prepare results for inclusion in figures for publications, grants, abstracts, etc.


Lead discussions and planning for optimization of experimental protocols, including identification of new/downstream targets to be investigated based on results the intern provides. This will be facilitated through regular meetings with Dr. Sewell-Loftin, in addition to a collaborator (Dr. Joel Berry, BME) and graduate students in both labs.

Preceptor will provide intern with access to the following: Supplies needed to complete project, Software and data set access
Likelihood that intern will be included as an author on one or more publications related to this summer research project: Very likely
Areas in which the ideal candidates will have experience: Cell Biology, Computer Programming, Laboratory Skills, basic knowledge, Literature Review Skills, Molecular Biology, Scientific Writing Skills, Statistics and Data Management, basic knowledge, Statistics and Data Management advanced