• Principal Investigator: Professor Thomas H. Barker

    Department of Biomedical Engineering

    School of Engineering & School of Medicine

    University of Virginia

    the matrix biology and engineering lab

  • The Extracellular Matrix (ECM) of tissues constitutes both the structural and mechanical support for cells, but recently we've learned it is much, much more...

    Cells both generate and sense forces, establishing a complex feedback loop that ensures mechanical homeostasis between the cell and its microenvironment.

    What happens when this delicate balance is disrupted?

  • what we do

    Novel Regulators of Cell Mechanotransduction

    The quiet influence of Thy-1

    Thy-1, and perhaps numerous GPI-linked, integrin binding membrane proteins, have tremendous potential to alter how cells sense and respond to their mechanical environment.

    Hijacking the Cell's Mechanotransduction Machinery

    Finding the leverage point

    A host of intracellular signaling molecules and transcription factors help realize the cell's intended responses to the mechanical microenvironment.

    Hey, don't forget the Matrix

    Fibronectin is our hyper-elastic friend

    Fibronectin and many other ECM proteins exhibit significant molecular deformation under force. Do these deformations drive meaningful altered interactions with cells?

    Time is not on our side

    The incongruity between acute mechanotransduction and chronic disease progression

    How mechanotransduction within cells and the matrix drive lasting changes in tissue remodeling are incompletely understood.

  • the motley crew

    Countless hours, poor pay, and an absent-minded Principal Investigator all qualify these guys as heroes & lab rats!

    Lab Specialist III

    Mary helps keep us pointed in the right direction and anchors down the fort. Her research focuses on animal models of fibrosis.

    Senior Scientist (UVA)

    Vincent's research focuses on endogenous heterogeneity in fibroblast mechanotransduction.

    Postdoctoral Fellow (UVA)

    Wei's research is focused on fibronectin mechanics and deformation under force.

    Postdoctoral Fellow (UVA)

    Ping is focused on further exploring Thy-1's role in directing integrin signaling and mechanotransduction.

    NIH MD/PhD Predoctoral Fellow, 5th Year (GT)

    Dwight is developing novel gene-based therapies that leverage cell mechanotransduction.

    NSF and NIH Predoctoral Fellow, 5th Year (GT)

    Vicky's research is focused on how post-translational modifications to the provisional (wound healing) ECM alter fibroblast phenotype.

    GAANN Predoctoral Fellow,

    5th Year (GT Chemistry)

    Haylee is working on a therapeutic antibody that blocks specific cell-ECM interactions and we believe could inhibit myofibroblast differentiation.

    NSF Predoctoral Fellow,

    4th Year (GT BME)

    John is now working on the development  of unique platelet-like particles for hemostasis and endeavors to get us to Phase I clinical trials!

    2nd Year PhD Student

    (UVA BME)

    Leandro is using directed evolution and antibody engineering to improve a potential fibrosis theranostic we developed in the lab.

    2nd Year PhD Student

    (UVA Pathology)

    Riley is studying the potential for mechanical cues and cytokine signaling to impact pericyte participation in tissue regeneration and fibrosis.


    Ph.D. & Postdoc (PD)

    Dr. Sarah Stabenfeldt (PD '07-'10) - Asst Professor, Arizona St.

    Dr. Ashley Brown (PhD & P.D. '06-'15) - Asst Professor @ NC State/UNC

    Dr. Allyson Soon (PhD '06-'12) - Research Scientist @ Nanyang Tech Univ.

    Dr. Rodney Averett (PD '07-'10)- Assistant Professor, Univ. of Georgia


    Ph.D. & Postdoc (PD)

    Dr. Kelly Clause (PD '07-'10) - unknown

    Dr. Lizhi Cao (PhD '08-'13)- Postdoc Fellow,

    Biogen Idec

    Dr. Marilyn Markowski (PhD '09-'13)- Postdoc Biomed Engr, Halyard Health

    Dr. Vincent Fiore (PD '08-'14)- Postdoc Fellow, Elaine Fuchs Lab, Rockefeller


    Ph.D. & Postdoc (PD)

    Dr. Alison Douglas (PhD '10-'15)- Research Scientist, Suneris

    Dr. Anton Bryksin (PD '12-'13)- Director, Molecular Evolution Core Facility @ GA Tech

    Dr. Michelle Gaines (PD '15-'16)- Postdoctoral Fellow, GA Tech

  • The Cautiously optimistic leader


    We're all just trying to find happiness

    The folks in my lab remind me that we are each on a journey. Sometimes we have detours and sometimes we find ourselves unintentionally in the fast lane. They help me on my journey every day and I hope, in return, I help them find their way too.


    My own "regenerative medicine" experiment

    In collaboration with Dr. Shannon Barker, I am attempting to grow two small organisms that share remarkable similarities to the collaborative team at both the molecular and macroscopic scale.


    The small band of humans that tolerate me

    Thankfully a handfull of individuals put up with me and for that I'm very grateful.  These folks share a common love for food, travel, and family 


    Yeah, major driver in my life

    I have a healthy love for cooking and eating.  I like to cook and eat just about anywhere I am.  Eating is good and I particularly like eating at places that take you someplace you've never been before.

  • Our funding

    The 3 "P"s of great progress: patience, perseverance, and penny

    NIH Director's Transformative Research Award

    Mechanosensors that Detect and Treat Lung Fibrosis

    Department of Defense

    CDMRP: Development of platelet-like particles for augmentation of hemostasis in congenital heart defect patients

    National Institutes of Health (NHLBI)

    R01: Targeting the alphaV integrin mechanotransduction axis in Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis

    National Institutes of Health (NHLBI)

    R01: Augmenting hemostasis with platelet-like particles

    National Science Foundation

    5 NSF GRP Fellows

    2 Graduate Trainees

    National Institutes of Health

    3 Postdoc & Fellow-to-Faculty Fellowships

    5 Predoctoral MD/PhD & PhD Fellows & Trainees

    American Heart Association

    2 Postdoc & Predoctoral Fellows

  • What's Happening

    Look how good we are :)

  • our universe

    Links to resources, societies, and random things

    Lab Protocols/Research Images


    American Society for Matrix Biology

    American Thoracic Society


    Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine International Society

    Society for Biomaterials

  • Connect With Us

    We're always looking for eager, ambitious students, postdocs, and scientists


    Google Scholar

    Research Gate



    BME Department

    University of Virginia

    MR5, Rm 1225

    415 Lane Rd.

    Charlottesville, VA 22904

    (434) 924-1729

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