Allen Lab Welcomes New Masters Student Kari Ross!

Hi everyone! My name is Kari Ross and I am a first year graduate student in Biomedical Engineering. I am a double gator, having just finished my bachelors in Materials Science Engineering. Last summer, I worked in a laboratory in Denver, analyzing the effect of contact guidance on endothelial cells with the goal of understanding and promoting regeneration of native tissue around small-diameter vascular grafts.

This year I have the exciting opportunity to work on a DNA-Collagen Hydrogel for application in wound healing. Wounds are a problem that cost millions of dollars per year and are often characterized by problems such as an overabundance of MMP’s, microbial infections, and lack of blood vessel formation. The motivation of this project is to create a unique DNA-collagen hydrogel wound dressing that will provide a matrix for cells to attach, proliferate, and ultimately lead to new tissue formation. Using DNA is an enhancement from the previously researched hydrogel dressings in that DNA is not only bioactive, but it also spontaneously self assembles fibers when paired with collagen that provide topography and contact guidance for the cells. Using DNA also allows the opportunity to use a specified aptamer, perhaps one geared towards supporting angiogenesis in the wound site. MMP (metalloproteinase) reduction can bring impaired wound healing. When there are elevated levels of MMP, this leads to wound failure (chronic wounds). This is because elevated protease activity breaks down the matrix structure and interferes with cellular signaling, therefore not allowing the fibroblasts to respond and differentiate on the wound site. Collagen has been shown to reduce the levels of MMPs, acting as a substrate or excessive proteases in a chronic wound.

My ultimate goal is to change the world for the better, by combining my background in Materials Science Engineering with the education I am getting through my Masters program and research. I hope one day to be part of the development or production of life-saving medical devices and treatments. My goal for this year is to learn new skills, develop professionally, and publish a paper on my unique findings.

My interests outside of the lab include hiking, skiing, sports, and baking.

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