Jennifer Davis, assistant professor of pathology and bioengineering
New bioengineering faculty member Jennifer Davis, who joined the department in August 2015 as an assistant professor of pathology and bioengineering, brings expertise in cardiac biology and genetics to the department’s heart regeneration program.
UW Bioengineering’s collaborative environment was one of the biggest draws for her, and she felt the department would expand her research horizons or inspire a new research direction. “After being here several months, it’s all been true,” she says. Through collaborations with colleagues at South Lake Union and she says, “extending out into the bioengineering world, I’ve seen different ways of making my research more available for true use. That’s one of the things that the BioE department is so good at – developing tools and really making the research accessible to the public.”
Dr. Davis has begun work with Chuck Murry, joint professor of pathology, cardiology and bioengineering, Mike Regnier, professor of bioengineering, and Deok-Ho Kim, assistant professor bioengineering. “Coupling genetic techniques with the work the other investigators are doing is going to have such a powerful impact on shifting the current biologic paradigm, particularly in the heart world,” Dr. Davis says. “I think we’re going to make huge strides in testing questions because I bring the genetics and they bring all the engineering tools.”
Removing barriers to heart repair
Because the heart isn’t equipped to repair itself, researchers are engineering therapies to build new heart muscle to combat injuries and cardiac disease. UW bioengineers have made significant advances, but their work has met with barriers when it comes to the stiff scar tissue that competes with the new regenerated heart muscle.
That’s where Dr. Davis’s work comes in – she’s working on ways to get rid of the scars, making way for the healthy heart tissue to take over. She is working to understand how the heart repairs itself but rather than looking at the heart muscle cell itself – the main pumping unit – she studies fibroblasts, the support cells that help construct connective tissue and when triggered, are responsible for forming scars.