Stephanie Vega, PhD
Being a graduate student at the University of Texas Medical
Branch (UTMB) has given me the opportunity to learn in a strong research
intensive atmosphere with a diverse scientific community that values
the intellectual development of their students. My mentor Dr. Nichols,
has been essential to my success as a graduate student. As my mentor,
she encourages and challenges me to build on my strengths in order to
reach my full potential. Working in her laboratory has been an amazing
experience as I am part of a team that is working on cutting-edge
My dissertation project was focused
on the development of a 3D bioengineered human lung construct as an
experimental model to study pathogenesis of chronic lung disease (e.g.
pulmonary fibrosis), respiratory infections caused by influenza virus,
for toxicology studies or screening of drug therapies. Of particular
interest to me, is the involvement of macrophage subsets (M1 and M2) and
other innate immune cells in chronic inflammation and tissue remodeling
during the formation of fibrotic lung tissue.
human lung constructs we have developed in our laboratory have the
potential to be used for regenerative medicine. This would help to
increase the number of lungs available for patients who suffer from
end-stage lung disease and need a lung transplant. Our research team was
the first in the world to bioengineer human lungs and successfully
transplant a bioengineered lung into a large-animal model.