ChE Seminar Series: Maribella Domenech, Ph.D.

Date(s) - 04/02/2024
9:00 am - 10:00 am

HPNP 1404


Title: Collagen-based culture technologies for tumor biology studies and stem cell manufacturing applications

Maribella Domenech, Ph.D.
Department of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering Program
University of Puerto Rico

Abstract: The architecture and composition of the collagen matrix serve as powerful tools for stimulating cell growth and modulating the secretome profile through cell integrin-matrix interactions. Physical factors like matrix stiffness and porosity have been widely recognized for their roles in regulating cell differentiation and altered tumor cell fate. Beyond just using collagen in culture, the structure of collagen is a crucial determinant in stimulating specific integrin subtypes. This, along with other vital biochemical cues, represents a largely unexplored potential for achieving desired cell phenotypes in a manner that mimics cell-matrix interactions in the tissue. Our research is dedicated to understanding how the stimulation of collagen integrin subtypes and key biological factors influence cell behavior. In this seminar, I will present some collagen-based culture technologies developed in our laboratory, specifically for breast cancer research and stem cell manufacturing. Our results demonstrate that appropriate integrin stimulation can support tumor cell phenotypes resistant to therapy. Also, timely integrin stimulation can improve stem cell survival and potency. These advances in culture technology have significant implications for modeling disease states and enhancing therapy and hold great promise for improving the efficiency of stem cell manufacturing applications.

Bio: Dr. Maribella Domenech was born and raised in Puerto Rico. She is a Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez (UPR-Mayaguez). She completed a bachelor’s in Industrial Biotechnology at University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez (2006), an M.S. and Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering at University of Wisconsin, Madison (2010) and a Postdoc in Chemical Engineering at the University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez (2012). Dr. Domenech has been an independent researcher and educator in the areas of chemical engineering and biomedical engineering for 11 years. Much of her research trajectory has been focused on developing biomaterials and microfluidic platforms of defined biochemical, physical and mechanical properties for studies of modeling the breast tumor microenvironment, and improving the potency of therapeutic cells in the manufacturing process. She is part of the leadership teams of the NSF-Sponsored Engineering Research Center in Cell Manufacture Technologies (CMAT) and the Center for the Advancement of Wearable Technologies (CAWT). Her research work has been presented at more than 30 conferences, and she has authored numerous peer-reviewed journal articles (>20) and 2 book chapters.

One of her research articles on the role of collagen fibrous architecture in modulating drug resistance in breast cancer was featured on the cover of the prestigious ACS biomaterial science & engineering journal (2021). Her research and mentorship efforts have been recognized through multiples awards including the Industrial Biotechnology Alumni Role Model Award for three consecutive years (2015-2017), Faculty Cancer Research Award (2016) by the American Association for Cancer Research, Distinguished Engineer Faculty Award (2018) and more recently the 2024 AACR Minority and Minority-Serving Institution Faculty Scholar in Cancer Research Award. Dr. Domenech was the first female engineering faculty from the UPR system to be elected as a standing member of the Cellular and Molecular Technologies Study Section at the NIH Center for Scientific Review. Also, last year she was recognized by the Engineering Now Magazine as one of the most outstanding females in the engineering research faculty at UPR-Mayaguez and by Ciencia Puerto Rico among the top 37 Puerto Rican females in STEM disciplines and selected to be part of the Borinqueñas in STEM Exhibit at the Centro Criollo de Ciencias y Tecnología del Caribe (C3Tec).