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The Nanoscale Immunoengineering Lab
at Columbia University in New York City

We work at the interface of materials science, nanotechnology and immunology to develop new tools to engineer the immune system to improve human health. 

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Engineering the immune system at the nanoscale

The immune system holds enormous potential to treat or cure diseases as varied as infection, cancer, heart disease, and neurodegeneration. Our group seeks to develop nanotechnology that will allow us to safely and effectively deploy the immune system towards solving society’s most pressing biomedical challenges.

 

We approach this by engineering multifunctional nanoscale particles that can be used on their own or as building blocks for larger biomaterial assemblies. Central to this approach is to mimic natural ways that the immune system communicates with the body, in order to develop tools that can reprogram immune responses to better serve human health.

Nanostructured hydrogels

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We construct macroscopic biomaterials using nanoscale building blocks. Leveraging dynamic interactions, we use nanoparticles like liposomes to physically crosslink polymer networks to give rise to injectable biomaterials. We functionalize these advanced materials by engineering the surface chemistry of the nanoparticle building blocks, introducing capabilities like affinity-governed release.

Cell-derived biomaterials

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We are developing nanotechnology directly from biological matter, using cells to generate bioactive nanovesicles.

 

We use these nanovesicles as immunotherapeutics and explore them in the context of supramolecular biomaterials and scaffolds. With this approach, we preserve bioactive features from cells to create materials with biomimetic properties that allow us to study the intrinsic immunomodulatory properties of tumors, immune cells and stem cells.

Immune cell mimicry

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The immune synapse governs essential cell fate decisions that determine the nature of adaptive immune responses. Within this synapse, biological signals are tightly regulated both in space and time to achieve a particular outcome. Harnessing these capabilities is essential for enabling the growing field of cellular therapies, which require extensive reprogramming of immune cells. 

 

To this end, we are designing self-assembling nanostructures that can precisely orient multiple biological signaling motifs. Our goal is to use this technology to pattern biomaterials to simulate the immune synapse to better understand and control immune cell differentiation.