CHOP Launches New Bioengineering Lab Dedicated to Challenging Pediatric Airway Disorders

Published on

First-of-its-kind lab led by newly recruited Dr. Riccardo Gottardi, an internationally recognized bioengineering and biomaterials expert

The experts at the Center for Pediatric Airway Disorders Frontier Program at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia are leaders at treating the vocal tract as well as injuries and blockages that can prevent children of all ages from communicating and breathing properly. As part of its commitment to remain at the forefront of breakthroughs in this field, the Center recently recruited Riccardo Gottardi, PhD, to establish a first-of-its-kind bioengineering and biomaterials lab dedicated to developing new techniques and specialized devices in pediatric laryngology. Gottardi is also an Assistant Professor Pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania. 

Gottardi will be the principal investigator in the lab, leading a team of fellows, postdoctoral scientists, graduate students and others who will work closely with Ian N. Jacobs, MD, medical director of the Center for Pediatric Airway Disorders, and the Center’s entire team of laryngological specialists. The newly established lab is fully multidisciplinary and will recruit researchers from several fields, including bioengineering, microbiology, materials science, genomics and laryngology.

“Launching this lab will allow us to truly push research forward in meaningful, innovative ways,” Jacobs said. “Dr. Gottardi’s expertise in bioengineering and biomaterials will allow us to make a difference for patients for whom our current research advances just aren’t enough. We identified bioengineering as the best way to solve these critical issues.”

One of Gottardi’s major goals is to engineer tissues in the lab to repair damaged airway. This is particularly challenging for pediatric patients whose tissues and organs are still growing.

Gottardi and his lab will study complex pediatric disorders from a variety of angles. The lab will integrate basic scientific research in the underlying biological mechanisms with engineering approaches to repair injured airway and even prevent damage from happening. Using genomic sequencing, the team will also identify the genes that influence which patients may be more prone to developing severe disorders. Taking this information, the team plans to develop targeted drug delivery systems that can be best matched with appropriate patients.

As damage to the vocal folds specifically impairs speech an development, Gottardi’s team will also develop in vitro models of vocal cords of infants and children to discover new therapeutic interventions and improve drug delivery tailored to each patient.

“With the multidisciplinary approach of our lab, we believe we will be making breakthrough discoveries in airway disorders and move our repair and regenerative approaches to the clinic within the next few years,” Gottardi said. “I am thrilled to be working closely with Dr. Jacobs and CHOP’s team of tremendously dedicated physicians. CHOP’s resources and commitment are allowing me to do the kind of translational research that could hardly be done anywhere else in the world.”