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

Positions and Carrer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Jul-Aug 2005
Industry Internship at Merck KGaA, Institute for Toxicology, Darmstadt, Germany

2004 Research Assistant (“Hiwi”) in Computational Neuroscience, Max-Planck-Institute for Medical Research, Heidelberg, Germany

2003 Research Assistant (“Hiwi”) in Computational Biology, German Cancer Research Center
 

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)

2020
W2 Professorship offer at Saarland University (in conjunction with Leibniz Programme for Women Professors Award)


2020
Invited to interview for W3 Professorship in Organ-on-a-Chip Systems at University of Tübingen, Germany


2020
Shortlisted (2nd or 3rd place) for W3 Professorship at TU Berlin, Germany


2017
Shortlisted (3rd place) for W3 Professorship at B CUBE Institute at TU Dresden, Germany


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


2014
Invited participation at workshop “Active Matter: Cytoskeleton, Cells, Tissues and Flocks”. Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics, Santa Barbara, CA


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


2013
nvited attendance at 8th annual Science Foo Camp by Google, O'Reilly Media & Nature Journal


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


2009
PENS-Hertie Neuroscience Winter School Scholar, Hertie Foundation, Germany


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

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

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


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


2001-2007
6-Year Scholarship for Bachelor and Master Studies, German National Merit Foundation (Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes)
1999
1-Month travel stipend and book award for independent field studies on “Dragonflies in Southern France”, ZIS Foundation, Salem, Germany

2019-present
European Respiratory Society (ERS)


2009-present
American Physical Society, Division of Fluid Dynamics (APS-DFD)


2012-2013
Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES)


20012-2014
Society for Integrative & Comparative Biology (SICB)


2007 -2009
Society for Neuroscience (SFN)

2020
European Research Council Starting Grant (ERC-STG)


2020
Leibniz Programme for Women Professors Award (Acceptance pending)

Selected Publications

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, 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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Modeling alcoholic liver disease in a human Liver-Chip

Nawroth, JC, Petropolis D, Manatakis D, Maulana T, Burchet G, Schlünder K, Witt A, Shukla A, Hamilton G, Shelley Lu, Karalis K.
In Press at Cell Reports

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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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