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Dr. Boyang Zhang,University of Toronto

A Microfluidic Approach to Tissue Vascularization

From the inception of tissue engineering, tissue vascularization has been one of the greatest challenges in this field. Our inability to capture the daunting complexity of this natural biological system has slowed down the advancement of this field. But the emergence of microfluidic technology/micro-fabrication has expanded engineers’ toolbox, allowing us to create structures that are as small as a capillary and as complex as a vascular bed. My thesis hypothesis is that functional, high-density tissues can be vascularized by microfluidic bio-scaffolds based on synthetic biodegradable polymer with built-in, endothelialized, permeable 3-D vascular networks. The synthetic vessel network is also mechanically stable enough to establish immediate blood perfusion upon implantation by direct surgical anastomosis. Successful development of a robust vascularization strategy would serve as the foundation to both further advance tissue engineering in clinical application as well as establish a more complete in-vitro model for drug discovery. In the first specific aim, we established a protocol for culturing endothelial cells in small conduit such as a PDMS networks with circular channel cross-sections. In these micro-networks, endothelial cells naturally coat the inner luminal surface and form tubular structure with tight-intercellular junction. However, PDMS is not an implantable material and also does not allow us to incorporate a parenchymal space. Then in the following specific aims, we established a 3-D stamping technique to create a bio-scaffold with build-in micro-channel network that is mechanical stable, yet permeable and permits intercellular crosstalk and extravasation of monocytes and endothelial cells on biomolecular stimulation through the incorporation of nano-pore and micro-holes on the channel walls. With this technology (hereafter referred to as AngioChip), we successfully engineered vascularized functional rat and human hepatic and cardiac tissues that can process clinically relevant drugs delivered through the vasculature. Furthermore, millimetre-thick cardiac tissues can be engineered in a scalable manner. Finally, we demonstrated direct surgical anastomosis of the engineered tissues in both artery-to-artery and artery-to-vein configuration.


Dr. Leila Qashu, Memorial University of Newfoundland

Toward an Understanding of Justice, Belief and Women’s Rights: Ateetee, an Arsi Oromo Women’s sung Dispute Resolution in Ethiopia

My dissertation examines how women engage indigenous mechanisms of justice to hold individuals in their communities accountable in a male-dominated society. Specifically I analyze ateetee, a sung Arsi Oromo women's indigenous dispute resolution process in Ethiopia, to demonstrate how music, as an expressive form, enables women to protect, promote and claim their rights, and to resolve disputes peacefully in a rapidly changing social environment. Though Arsi society is socio-politically male dominated, women have their own power through ateetee, their women's institution, and the vernacular belief system. Ateetee is a highly political and power laden process, in which women travel to the offender's house singing insults, then sing in front of the offender's house until a reconciliation ceremony is he ld. At the ceremony, they receive a cow as compensation, then the women finish by blessing the offender. I have demonstrated how this ritual process is a judicial process, through which women actively resolve disputes and uphold rights and respect they have in Oromo society and under Oromo law. I challenge standard academic discourses to demonstrate how the arts and women's involvement therein can be more than merely resistive, i.e., they can achieve actual results. I also offer a distinctive model for the conceptualization of legal pluralism and justice, in which women and their communities are at the centre of dispute resolution processes.

By examining this process from a local perspective, through voices of different participants, I analyzed the factors and circumstances that allow these sung rituals to remain relevant and effective means of dispute resolution, and to draw wider conclusions concerning how to foster restorative justice through the expressive arts. I have also explored some of the dramatic social changes that are affecting this ritual, including mainstream religions, government/political interferences, and urbanization/modernization. Theoretically my research engages three main areas: vernacular feminism, indigenous spirituality, and legal pluralism. I spent over 16 months in the field, with different communities in highland and lowland areas, and in the dissertation, I have supplemented thick ethnographic descriptions and the voices of community members with video and audio recordings of interviews and rituals.