The Wight Lab focuses on understanding how the extracellular matrix and its component molecules such as hyaluronan (HA), versican and other proteoglycans, regulate the capacity of a number of different cell types to survive, proliferate, migrate and differentiate in autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. Special emphasis is given to exploring how these extracellular matrix molecules influence cellular phenotype. His major projects include:
- Defining the role that proteoglycans play in vascular disease including atherosclerosis and restenosis, diseases of the lung such as asthma and autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes. Special emphasis is placed on how these extracellular matrix molecules influence events associated with inflammation.
Monocytes (blue) binding to cables containing the ECM molecule hyaluronan (green).
- Developing the use of proteoglycan genes and products of those genes to bioengineer vascular tissue in order to maintain normal vasculature structure. Specific projects include evaluating the mechanism(s) by which proteoglycans influence extracellular matrix assembly such as formation of elastic fibers.
- Developing “designer extracellular matrices” to be used in the treatment and engineering of tissues destroyed by trauma and/or disease. Special emphasis is given the engineering of small blood vessels as replacement parts for diseased coronary arteries and in the design of implants containing stem cells that differentiate into insulin-producing cells for the treatment of type 1 diabetes.
Heavily inflamed pancreatic islet, stained for the ECM molecule hyaluronan (brown).