Michael R. Blatchley

Deepening our collective understanding of how blood vessels form has the potential to benefit the development of new therapies for two of the leading causes of death worldwide, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Interestingly, cardiovascular disease treatment aims to promote blood vessel formation, while cancer therapies aim to inhibit the formation of tumor vasculature, further highlighting the need to understand the details of this process in order to successfully control it in both contexts. Studying how human blood vessels form in the lab requires a highly biomimetic platform that can mimic aspects of the regenerative/pathological environment in which blood vessels form in vivo. To achieve this, I used oxygen-controllable hydrogels to study the impact of 3D hypoxic gradients on endothelial cell behavior. Hypoxia is a hallmark of pro-angiogenic environments and is known to regulate many vital biological processes. Using this system, I was able to recapitulate the key morphogenetic events of an understudied mechanism for blood vessel formation, identify regulators of the process, and control vascular networks by manipulating the environment in which the endothelial cells reside. I have done my research in the lab of Sharon Gerecht.

Questions & Answers

Why did you choose Johns Hopkins for your work?

The track record for groundbreaking research is among the best of any university in the world. The opportunity to be a part of the research community at Hopkins was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up

What contributed to your project’s success?

I have been guided by exemplary mentorship and have been incredibly fortunate to have so many great labmates to discuss hypotheses, refine my experimental techniques and learn new protocols. I certainly would not have been able to do this alone and am grateful for everyone who contributed to the success of this project.

What thoughts do you have about Young Investigators’ Day itself, as a celebration of the roles students and fellows play in research at Johns Hopkins?

I really look forward to hearing about the work of the other awardees, and think it is great to have a research day designed to bring together those in many unique fields to get a sense of a lot of the fascinating work going on at Hopkins from the perspective of young scientists.

Tell us something interesting about yourself.

Away from the lab, I like to spend as much time as I can outdoors. I have really enjoyed the mountain biking and hiking around Baltimore, and have had a blast playing on intramural and city league soccer, basketball and softball teams. Running, cycling and walking my dog are the best times for me to organize figures in a paper, think about new ideas and clear my head.