Nikki Farnsworth

Assistant Professor, Chemical and Biological Engineering

Nikki FarnsworthThe world health organization has identified air pollution and climate change as one of the top ten threats to global health in 2019. The incidence of life-threatening diseases is growing every year and exposure to environmental hazards has been linked to the causation of many of these diseases including cancer, heart disease, and autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes. Biomaterials have revolutionized strategies to combat these life threatening diseases; from tools to better understand disease development to tissue engineering strategies and drug delivery platforms. Biomaterial scaffolds are highly tailorable platforms that can be engineered to interact with existing tissue, mimic native tissue including cellular interactions with extracellular matrix molecules, and even alter cellular behavior. 

The main goal of my research is to develop biomaterial scaffolds to investigate cellular interactions with their environment and to harness this information to develop therapies for life threatening diseases. My research primarily focuses on type 1 diabetes (T1D), which is characterized by the progressive destruction of the insulin producing β-cells in the pancreatic islets of Langerhans by activated immune cells. The goals of my research are to 1) understand the role of extracellular matrix interactions in cellular death and dysfunction during the onset and progression of T1D, 2) further the understanding of pancreatic islet dysfunction and death mechanisms during the pathogenesis of T1D, and 3) develop therapies which preserve islet function and mass after the onset of disease. This research combines novel biomimetic scaffold design with advanced live-cell imaging techniques to provide quantitative insight into pancreatic islet function and disease development. The discoveries that we make will ultimately help to improve therapies for patients with T1D.

Education

  • BS, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
  • PhD, University of Colorado Boulder

Selected Publications

  • Farnsworth, N.L., Walter, R., Piscopio, R., Benninger, R.K.P. (2018). Exendin-4 Overcomes Cytokine-Induced Decreases in Electrical Coupling via PKA and EPAC2 Activation in Mouse and Human Islets. The Journal of Physiology, 597(2):431-447
  • Farnsworth, N.L., Hemmati, A., Westacott, M.J., Walter, R. L., Benninger, R.K.P. (2015). Low Level Pro-Inflammatory Cytokines Decrease Connexin36 Gap Junction Coupling in Mouse and Human Islets through Nitric Oxide-mediated Protein Kinase Cδ. The Journal of Biological Chemistry, 291:3184-3196.
  • Farnsworth, N.L., Hemmati, A., Pozzoli, M., Benninger, R.K.P. (2014). Fluorescence recovery after photobleaching reveals regulation and distribution of connexin36 gap junction coupling within mouse islets of Langerhans. Journal of Physiology, 592(Pt 20):4431-4446.
  • Farnsworth, N.L., Benninger, R.K.P. (2014). New insights into the role of connexins in pancreatic islet function and diabetes. FEBS Letters, 588(8):1278-87.
  • Farnsworth N.L., Mead B.E., Antunez L.R., Palmer A.E., Bryant S.J. (2014). Ionic osmolytes and intracellular calcium regulate tissue production in chondrocytes cultured in a 3D charged hydrogel. Matrix Biology, 40:17-26.
  • Farnsworth, N., Bensard, C., Bryant, S.J. (2012). The Role of the PCM in Reducing Oxidative Stress Induced by Radical Initiated Photoencapsulation in Poly(ethylene glycol) Hydrogels. Osteoarthritis and Cartilage 20(11):1326-1335.

Honors and Awards

  • 2019 Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Advanced Postdoctoral Fellowship
  • 2017 American Diabetes Association Young Investigator Travel Grant Award

Contact

429 Alderson Hall
1613 Illinois Street
Golden, CO 80401
303-273-3191
nfarnsworth@mines.edu