Dr. Wang’s research program within the Surgical Bioengineering Laboratory focuses on developing innovative tools, technologies, and therapeutics that combine molecular, cellular, tissue, and biomaterial engineering to promote regeneration and restore function. Dr. Wang’s lab engineers and develops products and technologies using stem cells, extracellular vesicles, and extracellular matrices to treat surgical conditions and diseases. Current projects include:
(1) Studying stem cell biology, differentiation, and secretion
The Wang group is deriving stem cells from various sources currently investigating the mechanisms of action behind stem cell benefits, their differentiation capabilities, and secretion profiles in an effort to improve their application as regenerative therapeutics for various diseases.
(2) Engineering stem cell-derived extracellular vesicles for tissue regeneration and targeted delivery
Extracellular vesicles (EVs) mediate critical cell-to-cell communication and have now emerged as a new class of nanotherapeutics for regenerative medicine. The Wang group is working diligently to improve methods of obtaining high yields of stem cell-derived extracellular vesicles (EV) and engineering EVs to improve their therapeutic functions and targeting efficiency in an effort to develop EV-based regenerative therapies for various diseases.
(3) Developing instructive biomaterial scaffolds for stem cell culture, delivery, and recruitment
Cell-extracellular matrix (ECM) engagement is crucial for cells to function. The Wang group is interested in developing an optimal extracellular environment to support cell binding and function. We design the cell/ECM interface by developing instructive biomaterial-based scaffolds to mimic the structure and function of native ECMs to support cell expansion, transplantation, and recruitment.
(4) Establishing and using experimental and naturally-occurring disease models to evaluate regenerative products and treatments
Effective research largely depends on the development of successful animal models that can accurately portray the disease processes observed in humans. The SBL team has been successfully using well-established, surgically- and drug-induced small and large animal models to rigorously test treatment products. In addition, naturally-occurring models, which can more accurately exemplify disease processes are also being used. These models are extremely beneficial not only for humans but also for veterinary scientific advancement in treatment options. Currently, the Wang group is actively collaborating with the UC Davis Veterinary Medicine team and translating the innovative treatments developed in the lab to treat companion animal patients.
(5) Generating clinical-grade stem cell products and conducting human clinical trials
The SBL team has developed rigorous protocols for the production of stem cells under current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP) at the UC Davis GMP facility, and carried out extensive investigational new drug (IND)-enabling studies required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for clinical applications. In particular, Dr. Wang has been collaborating with Dr. Diana Farmer for the past decade in developing a stem cell regenerative therapy for spina bifida and the team has recently received approval from the FDA to test a groundbreaking spina bifida treatment that combines surgery with stem cells. The one-of-a-kind treatment, delivered while the baby is still in the mother’s womb, could improve outcomes for children with the birth defect.
(6) Fostering academic innovation and entrepreneurship
Dr. Wang has established the SBL as a hub for innovation and education, by integrating varying disciplines for a robust collaborative environment and by mentoring physicians, residents, scholars, and graduate and medical students to foster future innovation. The SBL is actively engaged with the emerging Aggie Square, the UC Davis - Sacramento Innovation Center. As the UC Davis School of Medicine Dean's Fellow in Entrepreneurship, Dr. Wang is devoted in expanding our institution’s infrastructure in innovation and entrepreneurship to better link advances in academic research with product and technology development and commercialization, and promoting UC Davis' contribution to socio-economic development.