Melinda Larsen

  • Melinda Larsen


    Dr.Larsen laboratory’s primary goal is to decipher the critical pathways used to form tissues to ultimately inform regenerative strategies for repair or replacement of damaged or diseased organs. Because the local tissue environment significantly affects cell function, the Larsen Lab uses innovative methods to manipulate and study cells within 3D contexts that mimic the cells’ native environment. A primary model system is that of embryonic salivary gland ex vivo organ cultures, which facilitate study of early organ development in a 3D context that is amenable to manipulation with siRNAs, shRNAs delivered by viral constructs, and pharmacological agents. Efforts are focused on deciphering the molecular pathways that control early morphogenesis and cell fate, with a particular focus on synergy between mechanical and chemical signaling. Microarray analysis is being used to profile genetic changes initiated by mechanical and chemical pathways that regulate morphogenesis and differentiation. Additionally, the Larsen lab uses biochemical methods and both fluorescent confocal and time-lapse microscopy to track molecular and cellular dynamics in tissues and cell constructs. To understand the impact of the extracellular environment on regulation of individual cells, cells are grown in synthetic gel-like materials and on nanofiber scaffolds that simulate specific properties of the native environment. In collaborative work, the Larsen lab is working to optimize cell-material surface interactions with a specific focus on compliance, surface topography, 3D curvature, and chemical signals to induce and maintain epithelial cell structure and function for application in tissue and regenerative medicine.