“Bioengineering: Realizing the Promise of Cell Signaling Control in Health and Disease”
Dysregulated vascularization is a hallmark of many disorders, including cancers, obesity, atherosclerosis, and the list is still growing. However, researchers have yet to achieve the promise of controlling vascularization to improve human health. We believe that Bioengineering, as a discipline, offers two key advantages for achieving this promise: 1) the sensitive tools and methods that have been engineered to understand tissue and vascular microenvironments and 2) systems approaches, which integrate measurements and offer predictive insights.
These approaches offer novel platforms for drug discovery and clinical translation. We will present the progress our research group achieved towards vascular signal measurement and control. We will also show how applying our approaches to women’s health can improve outcomes in labor and delivery.
Acknowledgements: This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NSF CAREER: 1653925; NIH: R01HL159946; and NIH: R01HD096737).
Princess Imoukhuede (pronounced I-muh-KWU-e-de) is a leader in systems biology research, engineering education, and academic diversity initiatives, and the chair of the Department of Bioengineering at the University of Washington in Seattle. She is also currently an associate professor of bioengineering and director of diversity initiatives in the McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis.
Imoukhuede has always had a keen interest in exploring how things work. Growing up in Matteson, Illinois, she became fascinated by science in grade school. Her parents encouraged this pursuit by giving her a chemistry set to play with at home. After attending the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, Imoukhuede decided to study chemical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. There she did undergraduate research in drug delivery in the lab of Robert S. Langer. Her research at MIT earned her the Class of 1972 Award, given for a project that most improves quality of life for people or that benefits the environment.
Imoukhuede has worked to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion with other colleagues in her field to figure out how to create spaces for Black women within their disciplines. These conversations led her and her colleagues to facilitate the Black Women in Biomedical Engineering: Cultivating a Community for Success and Longevity special session that is now held at the annual meeting for the Biomedical Engineering Society. She has also served as the co-president of the MIT Committee on Multiculturalism and holding offices in the National Society of Black Engineers.
Imoukhuede did her graduate studies in bioengineering at the California Institute of Technology. She was the first African-American woman to receive a PhD in bioengineering at Caltech. She went on to become a postdoctoral scholar at Johns Hopkins University. Her postdoctoral research received funding from a United Negro College Fund/Merck Fellowship and other professional development awards.
Her main research interests are the many signals and receptors that regulate the formation of blood vessels. This field is important in understanding wound healing, but also in several disorders such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Many tumors, for example, produce a network of new blood vessels to nourish their interior cells and sustain their abnormal growth.
Imoukhuede also partners in obstetrical research using both quantitative methods and computational modeling to improve the efficacy and safety of administering oxytocin during childbirth. Oxytocin is a peptide hormone that stimulates uterine contractions for labor and the let-down reflex for breastfeeding.
These, and other of her research efforts, have led to 120 conference abstract presentations, 70 invited lectures, two patents and two provisional patents.
Her work has also been recognized with numerous honors and awards, including the Biomedical Engineering Society 2021 Mid-Career Award, a National Science Foundation CAREER Award, and the Young Innovator in Nanobiotechnology Award.