Member Spotlight: Claudia Loebel

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Member Spotlight: Claudia Loebel

This month’s Member Spotlight shines on Claudia Loebel, M.D., PhD. Dr. Loebel is an Assistant Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, Macromolecular Science and Engineering, and Biomedical Engineering.

Loebel’s lab’s work is inspired by the interface between materials science and regenerative engineering to address specific problems related to tissue development, repair, and regeneration. By developing mechanically and structurally dynamic biomaterials, microfabrication, and matrix manipulation techniques we aim to recreate complex cell-matrix interactions and model tissue morphogenesis and disease. The ultimate goal is to use these engineered systems to develop and translate more effective therapeutic treatments for diseases such as fibrotic, inflammatory, and congenital disorders.

  • Tell us a bit more about the details of your current research/projects

My lab, located in the Department of Materials Science & Engineering, focuses on engineering biomaterials, specifically hydrogels, to recreate aspects of the extracellular matrix (ECM). Using these hydrogels, we aim to understand how the ECM guides cellular decisions during tissue regeneration and repair. An important question we address is how the mechanical and biochemical signals of both existing and newly deposited ECM contribute to epithelial cell function in the distal lung. To investigate this, we have developed a labeling technique to visualize and identify ECM components. Ultimately, our goal is to not only understand the properties of the ECM but also how it acts as a storage space of cellular memory for surrounding cells.

  • What is innovative/new/exciting about these projects?

One thrilling aspect of our work is the methodology we created to visualize and identify the ECM components (nascent matrix) secreted and remodeled by cells. This innovative tool enables researchers to distinguish between the existing ECM and the newly secreted ECM, which has previously presented a significant technical challenge.

  • How it will benefit patients and clinicians?

The role of the ECM in disease and tissue regeneration has been overlooked as a source for new therapeutic targets. However, understanding its function in tissue repair and regeneration may greatly contribute to drug development.

  • How is Precision Health is supporting this research?

Our work benefits greatly from the diverse and multidisciplinary collaborators in the Precision Health network. These collaborations allow us to think big and provide access to equipment and tools that we do not have in the lab. As our journey continues and the concept of ECM gains more attention in various fields of Precision Health, I anticipate even more fruitful interactions.

  • How does your work apply to the field of precision health?

The ECM offers numerous therapeutic targets, and we are only beginning to discover these potential targets. Consequently, precision health and personalized medicine hold significant promise in developing patient-specific therapies for diseases involving the ECM.

  • If you’d like, please provide links to recent/significant work.

Roy et al., Programmable Tissue Folding Patterns in Structured Hydrogels. Advanced Materials, do: 10.1002/adma.202300017

Ahmed, Eiken et al., Integrating mechanical cues with engineered platforms to explore cardiopulmonary development and disease. iScience doi: 10.1016/j.isci.2023.108472

  • What do you like to do when you aren’t doing research?

I love running in Ann Arbor throughout the year.