Swartz Lab

Shann Yu

Originally from Taipei, Taiwan, Shann Yu earned a BS in bioengineering in 2008 from Rice University (Houston, TX), where he also earned departmental awards for his research on laser-based microfabrication and micropatterning techniques with Prof. Jennifer West. He then moved on to Vanderbilt University (Nashville, TN), where his research on macrophage-targeted polymeric siRNA and drug delivery vehicles in the laboratory of Prof. Todd Giorgio led to an MS (2009) and PhD (2012) in biomedical engineering—and recognition through the Biomedical Engineering Society's (BMES) Research and Design Award in 2012. He joined the Swartz Lab as a postdoctoral researcher at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL; Lausanne, Switzerland) from 2013 to 2016, and continued his research at UChicago following the group’s relocation here. In 2019, Shann was selected to help lead the PME’s efforts to create a new research center centered around its efforts in the new field of immunoengineering, and now serves as the Scientific Director of the Chicago Immunoengineering Innovation Center (ciic.uchicago.edu).

Lymphangiogenesis, or the growth of lymphatic vessels, is typically seen in sites of inflammation, and has been associated both with processes of antigen reactivity (e.g., chronic graft rejection and autoimmune diseases) and somewhat paradoxically, antigen tolerance (e.g., solid cancers). At the crux of the process of lymphangiogenesis are the lymphatic endothelial cells (LECs), which line lymphatic vessels and have also been recently shown to exert immunologic functions. Shann's research focuses on the impact of interactions between LECs and T cells under homeostatic conditions and during inflammatory processes. He addresses these interactions from several angles, all with the endpoint of observing effects on T cell functionality and phenotype: (1) delivery of the LEC growth factor VEGF-C under healthy or inflamed conditions, effectively exaggerating local LEC numbers; (2) ex vivo modification of LECs to overexpress costimulatory molecules or reduce expression of inhibitory molecules; and (3) development of drug/nucleic acid delivery vehicles (nanoparticles, molecular constructs, etc.) as LEC-homing vectors for in vivo use. His work is made possible by technical expertise in multiparameter flow cytometry, gene expression analysis, in vitro and in vivo immunologic assays, and biomaterials synthesis and characterization.