Seminar: Dr. Thomas Barker, Departments of Biomedical Engineering & Cell Biology University of Virginia | Institute for Functional Materials and Devices

Tuesday, May 28, 2019 at 10:00am to 11:00am

Sinclair Laboratory, Sinclair Auditorium
7 Asa Dr, Bethlehem, PA 18015


Increasingly, the extracellular matrix (ECM) microenvironment is appreciated as a potent instructor of cell phenotype.  Recent examples that highlight the role of ECM in directing tissue homeostasis and disease include tumor stroma that instruct metastasis and ECM mechanics that drive the differentiation of pro-fibrotic myofibroblasts.  My lab has focused on the dynamic reciprocity between mesenchymal stroma cells (fibroblasts), the arbiter of tissue remodeling, and their extracellular matrix microenvironment.  Recent findings from the lab suggest there are far greater complexities in fibroblast-matrix communication than previously thought.  I will present multiple vignettes from our recent work that shed light on: 1) how elevated matrix stiffness sensitizes fibroblasts to the critical cytokine TGFb through a novel cytoplasmic Smad regulatory complex, 2) an integrin adaptor protein, Thy-1, the absence of which classifies a disease relevant fibroblast subpopulation that is primed to undergo myofibroblastic differentiation in normal ECM microenvironments, and 3) how posttranslational modifications of the provisional/wound healing matrix add another level of complexity to cell-matrix homeostasis in the context of disease. 



Dr. Barker is a Full Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Virginia and the Director of the UVA Fibrosis Initiative.  Dr. Barker’s research activities center cell-extracellular matrix biology, focused primarily on fibroblast-ECM interactions that drive repair and fibrosis.  His research integrates engineering applications and basic cell and molecular biology approaches to understand and control cell phenotype through the extracellular matrices.  He is also focused on understanding fundamental roles of cell mechanotransduction and mechanical forces in regulating the biochemical activity of proteins in the extracellular matrix toward wound repair, regeneration, and fibrosis.  Dr. Barker has co-authored research and review papers in leading cell biology, matrix biology, and biomaterials journals and receives funding from the Coulter Foundation, NIH, DOD, and Health Effects Institute. He received both the Young Investigator Award (2012) and the top research award, the Iozzo Award (2016), from the American Society for Matrix Biology and received the NIH Director’s Transformative Research Award in 2015.


Research, Academics & Colleges

Target Audience

Graduate Students, Faculty

P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science, Institute for Functional Materials and Devices
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