Principal Investigator Janna Nawroth
Mechanobiology Lab

Our group’s primary research interest is to understand the mechanobiology of the airway epithelium. We propose that chronic airway diseases, such asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), are exacerbated and perpetuated by a change in the mechanical environment of the airways that promotes disease progression and lowers defenses to irritants and pathogens. To investigate this hypothesis, we study how normal and abnormal mechanical forces shape epithelial differentiation and remodeling on genetic and functional levels, and how the resulting properties of extracellular matrix, tissue architecture, and mucus affect mucociliary clearance, the primary mechanical defense of the airways.  We combine 3 different approaches to study these mechanisms at different spatial scales:

  1. We develop Airway-on-a-Chip models and tissue engineering techniques that allow us to build custom-designed airway epithelia, study the role of other cell types, and apply well-controlled mechanical stimuli
  2. We exploit advanced imaging and analysis tools to record structure, kinematics, and transport phenomena of living tissues at multiple spatial and temporal scales
  3. We leverage other model systems, including physics-based in silico models and select invertebrate animal models, to understand fundamental structure-function relationships between ciliated tissue designs and resulting mechanical properties and fluid transport functions.

Dr. Janna C. Nawroth


Principal Investigator, Mechanobiology

Janna Nawroth received her PhD in Biology at the California Institute of Technology, where she studied the structure-function relationships of jellyfish propulsion and used these insights to engineer muscle powered pumps for biomedical research. For her postdoctoral training, she was awarded the Technology Development Fellowship at the Harvard University Wyss Institute. She developed Organ-Chips and advanced imaging technologies with Don Ingber and Kit Parker to study the mechanics of human heart, lung and liver tissues, before continuing this work at the Organ-Chip company Emulate and later at the University of Southern California. In 2020, Dr. Nawroth received an ERC Starting grant for studying the role of mechanical forces and defective mucociliary clearance in chronic airway disease.  In 2021, Dr. Nawroth joined the Helmholtz Pioneer Campus.

Factsheet

Dr. Janna Nawroth

2021 - present
Principal Investigator at Helmholtz Pioneer Campus, Helmholtz Zentrum München, Germany

2021 - present
Junior Fellow at Technical University Munich (TUM), Germany

2019 – 2021
Senior Research Associate at USC Keck School of Medicine and USC Viterbi School of Engineering, Los Angeles, CA, USA

2018 – 2019
Associate Director, Research & Development Lead at Emulate Inc., Boston, MA

2016 – 2018
Principal Investigator at Emulate Inc., Boston, MA, USA

2013 – 2016
Postdoctoral Fellow & Technology Development Fellow, Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, Boston, MA, USA

2013 – 2013
Postdoctoral Fellow, Graduate Aerospace Laboratories, Division of Engineering & Applied Science, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, USA

2007- 2013
Ph.D. Graduate Student, Division of Biology, California Institute of Technology,Pasadena, CA, USA

2005- 2007
Research Associate in Neurobiology, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, USA 
 

Dec 2012
Ph.D. California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, USA (Biology)


Jun 2007
MSc Ruprecht Karl University Heidelberg, Germany (Molecular Biotechnology; Minor: Bioinformatics)


Jun 2004
BSc Ruprecht Karl University Heidelberg, Germany (Molecular Biotechnology; Minor: Bioinformatics)

2023 Whitman Center Fellowship, Marine Biology Laboratory (MBL), Woods Hole, USA

2020
Leibniz Programme for Women Professors Award (declined)


2014-2016
Wyss Technology Development Fellowship at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, Boston, MA


2013
Demetriades–Tsafka–Kokkalis price for best Ph.D. thesis in Nanotechnology and related fields, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA


2012
Everhart Lecture Award, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA


2008-2012
Gordon and Betty Moore Fellowship for Graduate Studies, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA

2008
Fellowship for “Neural Systems & Behavior” Graduate Level Research Course, Marine Biology Laboratory, Woods Hole, MA

2005
Scholarship for research semester at Yale University, German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD)


2003
Erasmus Mundus Scholarship Exchange Study Program at Montpellier University, France

European Respiratory Society (ERS)
American Physical Society, Division of Fluid Dynamics (APS-DFD)

2022
NIH Research Project Grant (R01)

2020
European Research Council Starting Grant (ERC-STG)

Postdoc

Feng Ling

E-Mail

PhD at University of Southern California in Mechanical Engineering
BS at the University of Texas at Austin in Pure Mathematics
BS at the University of Texas at Austin in Aerospace Engineering (Astronautics)
Focus: Microrheology of human airway mucus and its role in airway barrier function
PhD Thesis: "Multiscale Modeling of Cilia Mechanics and Functions"

Tankut Gokhan Guney

E-Mail

PhD Imperial College London
MSc. Imperial College London
BSc. University College London
Focus: 'Bioengineering a complex tubular branched human organoid of the airways'

PhD Student

Ayşe Tuğçe Şahin

E-Mail

MSc at Koç University in Molecular Biology and Genetics
BSc at Yeditepe University in Genetics and Bioengineering
Focus: The impact of metabolic disorders on chronic airway diseases and airway physiology
Master Thesis:  "The Cell Division Role of Glypican 5 in Mammalian Cells" 

Doris Roth

E-Mail
 

MSc at the Vienna University of Technology in Biomedical Engineering
BSc at the University of Salzburg and the Johannes Kepler University Linz in Molecular Biosciences
Focus: Mechanobiology of Chronic Airway Disease 
Master Thesis"Development of a Human in vitro Cystic Fibrosis Model for Personalized Medicine"

Niels Tepho

BSc at Technical University of Munich in Biochemistry
MSc at Technical University of Munich in Biochemistry
Focus: Dietary effect on lung health
Bachelor Thesis: Influence of additional channel proteins on the biofilm in K. hansenii ATCC 23769 - Construction of deletion mutants

Alumni

Dorothea Kraft

MSc at the Technical University of Munich in Mechanical Engineering
Focus: Image Processing 

Karen Manger

MSc: Biomedical Engineering and Medical Physics at the Technical University of Munich. 
Focus: Biosensor and Biomedical Imaging
Bachelor Thesis: Towards a microfluidic in vitro model of the renal proximal tubule by 3D-bioprinting: process and workflow optimization.

Selected Publications

Primary Ciliary Dyskinesia Patient-Specific hiPSC-Derived Airway Epithelium in Air-Liquid Interface Culture Recapitulates Disease Specific Phenotypes In Vitro

von Schledorn L, Puertollano Martín D, Cleve N, Zöllner J, Roth D, Staar BO, Hegermann J, Ringshausen FC, Nawroth J, Martin U, Olmer R. Primary Ciliary Dyskinesia Patient-Specific hiPSC-Derived Airway Epithelium in Air-Liquid Interface Culture Recapitulates Disease Specific Phenotypes In Vitro. Cells. 2023 May 24;12(11):1467. doi: 10.3390/cells12111467. PMID: 37296588; PMCID: PMC10252476.

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Spontaneous body wall contractions stabilize the fluid microenvironment that shapes host-microbe associations

JC Nawroth, C Giez, A Klimovich, E Kanso, TCG Bosch
bioRxiv 2022.11.30.518486; doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2022.11.30.518486

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Flow Physics Explains Morphological Diversity of Ciliated Organs

Janna C. Nawroth, Feng Ling, Tara Essock-Burns, David Stein, Margaret McFall-Ngai, Kakani Katija, Michael J. Shelley, Eva Kanso
bioRxiv 2023.02.12.528181; doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2023.02.12.528181

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Spontaneous body wall contractions stabilize the fluid microenvironment that shapes host-microbe associations

JC Nawroth, C Giez, A Klimovich, E Kanso, TCG Bosch
bioRxiv 2022.11.30.518486; doi: doi.org/10.1101/2022.11.30.518486


Primary Ciliary Dyskinesia Patient-Specific hiPSC-Derived Airway Epithelium in Air-Liquid Interface Culture Recapitulates Disease Specific Phenotypes In Vitro

von Schledorn, L.; Puertollano Martín, D.; Cleve, N.; Zöllner, J.; Roth, D.; Staar, B.O.; Hegermann, J.; Ringshausen, F.C.; Nawroth, J.; Martin, U.; et al. Primary Ciliary Dyskinesia Patient-Specific hiPSC-Derived Airway Epithelium in Air-Liquid Interface Culture Recapitulates Disease Specific Phenotypes In Vitro. Cells2023, 12, 1467. doi.org/10.3390/cells12111467


Modeling alcoholic liver disease in a human Liver-Chip

Nawroth JC, Petropolis DB, Manatakis DV, Maulana TI, Burchett G, Schlünder K, Witt A, Shukla A, Kodella K, Ronxhi J, Kulkarni G, Hamilton G, Seki E, Lu S, Karalis KC. “Modeling alcohol-associated liver disease in a human Liver-Chip”. Cell Rep. 2021 Jul, 20;36(3):109393

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Breathing on Chip: Biomechanical forces change airway epithelial cell biology in a human Airway Lung-Chip

Nawroth JC, Roth D, van Schadewijk A, Ravi A, Maulana T, Senger CN, van Riet S, Ninaber D, Kraft D, Ryan A, Hiemstra P,  van der Does AM. 
bioRxiv 2021.05.07.443164; doi.org/10.1101/2021.05.07.44316

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A Microengineered Airway Lung Chip Models Key Features of Viral-induced Exacerbation of Asthma

Nawroth JC, Lucchesi C, Cheng D, Shukla A, Ngyuen J, Shroff T, Varone A, Karalis K, Lee HH, Alves S, Hamilton GA, Salmon M, Villenave R
Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol. 2020 Nov;63(5):591-600. doi: 10.1165/rcmb.2020-0010MA. PMID: 32706623.

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Multiscale mechanics of mucociliary clearance in the lung

Nawroth JC, van der Does AM, Firth AL, Kanso E
Royal Society Philosophical Transactions B 2020 Feb 17;375(1792):20190160.

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Motile cilia create fluid-mechanical microhabitats for the active recruitment of the host microbiome

Nawroth JC, Guo H, Dabiri JO, Ruby E, Kanso E, McFall-Ngai M
Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, August 2017; 114(36):9510–9516.

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A tissue-engineered jellyfish with biomimetic propulsion

Nawroth JC, Lee H, Feinberg AW, Ripplinger CM, McCain ML, Grosberg A, Dabiri DO, Parker KK
Nature Biotechnology 2012 July 22, 30:792–797

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