Department Seminar

Engineering the Extracellular Matrix and the Control of Immunity and Inflammation

Speaker Details:

Thomas N. Wight
Director, Matrix Biology Program
Benaroya Research Institute

Lecture Details:

May 28, 2015
12:30-1:30 p.m.
Foege N130A, Wallace H. Coulter Seminar Room


The extracellular matrix (ECM) is a complex array of proteins and polysaccharides that interact by entanglement, cross linking, and charge to form a bioactive polymer that, in part, regulates the biomechanical properties of tissues and the phenotype of the cells that occupy those tissues. The relative contributions of the different ECM components vary with tissue type and contribute to optimal function of that tissue. Any disturbance in the balance of the ECM components in any given tissue leads to disease. Proteoglycans are a family of ECM components that exert a significant impact on the macromolecular assembly of the ECM and the control of cell phenotype in normal and diseased states. Successful engineering of tissues should involve mimicking the native ECM composition of that tissue for stability and performance. I will discuss how controlling the accumulation of specific proteoglycans can be used to successfully develop tissue-engineered blood vessels and skin. In addition, I will highlight how some proteoglycans and associated molecules, such as hyaluronan, regulate immune and inflammatory events in such diseases as atherosclerosis, cancer, and type 1 diabetes. Finally, I will discuss the hypothesis that targeting specific components of the ECM is an effective strategy in the prevention and treatment of a variety of specific diseases.

Speaker Bio:

Dr. Wight received his BS from the University of Maine and his PhD in Zoology from the University of New Hampshire in 1972. He did postdoctoral work under the late Dr. Russell Ross in the Department of Pathology at the University of Washington School of Medicine and later joined that department where he rose through the academic ranks, being promoted to Full Professor in 1988. In 2004, Dr. Wight and his lab moved to the Benaroya Research Institute in Seattle where he is now Director of the Matrix Biology Program. Dr. Wight’s research focus is on the role of proteoglycans in the regulation of cell phenotype and extracellular matrix assembly. He has published over 310 manuscripts in his field and has served on numerous editorial boards and NIH grant review panels. He is currently an Associative Editor of “Matrix Biology” and is a trustee and a Founding Member of the International Society of Hyaluronan Sciences. Dr. Wight is a Fellow of the American Heart Association and a past recipient of an American Heart Established Investigator Award. He was awarded the International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (IUBMB) Medal in September 2013 at the FEBS Advanced Lecture Course on Matrix Pathobiology, Signaling and Molecular Targets in Kos, Greece in recognition of his contributions to the field of Extracellular Matrix Biology.