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Steven Wellman

Neural interfacing technology equips us with direct investigative tools to study brain function in both healthy and diseased states and this advanced understanding can help guide strategies for treating neurodegenerative disease. However, the body’s overwhelming immune response to inserted devices degrades recording and stimulating performance over time in the form of reactive gliosis and neurodegeneration. Expanding our knowledge of the cellular and tissue dynamics that occur around implanted microelectrodes can assist with developing improved device designs as well as novel interventions to mitigate harsh inflammatory reactions. Using real-time in vivo two-photon microscopy, I am characterizing the behavior of previously unstudied cell types in the brain, oligodendrocyte precursor cells and pericytes, to elucidate their role in the foreign body response to inserted devices and develop insight about their contribution to neurodegenerative disease.


Prior to pursing my Ph.D. at Pitt, I received my B.Sc. in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Florida. Here I worked in Dr. Christine Schmidt’s lab developing an optimized decellularization method for acellular peripheral nerve grafts. This method involved chemically inducing apoptosis in neurons and Schwann cells as opposed to using harsh chemical detergents, which compromise the extracellular matrix of the tissue and reduce the regenerative potential of the graft. This newly developed decellularization method can be applied to other tissues involved in organ regeneration such as heart, liver, and lung. Furthermore, I worked with a graduate student to develop injectable hydrogels from acellularized peripheral nerve tissue for spinal cord regeneration therapies.




Wellman S.M., Kozai, T.D.Y. 2017. ACS Chemical Neuroscience. Understanding the Inflammatory Tissue Reaction to Brain Implants to Improve Neurochemical Sensing Performance. (in review)


Wellman S.M., Eles J.R., Ludwig K.A, Seymour J., Michelson N.J., McFadden W.E., Vazquez A.L., Kozai T.D.Y. 2017. Advanced Functional Materials. A Materials Roadmap to Functional Neural Interface Design.


Cornelison R.C., Wachs R.A., Wellman S.M., Park J.H., Porvasnik S.L., Song Y.H., Schmidt C.E. Development of an Apoptosis-Assisted Decellularization Method for Maximal Preservation of Nerve Tissue Structure. (in preparation)


Cornelison R.C., Gonzalez-Rothi E.J., Porvasnik S.L., Wellman S.M., Park J.H., Fuller D.D., Schmidt C.E. Biomedical Materials. Injectable Hydrogels of Optimized Acellular Nerve for Applications in the Injured Spinal Cord. (in review)




Wellman, S.M., Kozai, T.D.Y. Two-Photon Imaging Reveals Processes Extension and Cell Body Migration of Reactive NG2 Glia During Brain Injury. University of Pittsburgh 2017 Brain Day. Pittsburgh, PA. October 2017.


Wellman, S.M., Cornelison, R.C., Wachs, R.A., Park, J.H., Schmidt, C.E. Harnessing Apoptosis for Enhanced Tissue Preservation during Decellularization. University of Florida 2016 Biomaterials Day. Gainesville, FL. March 2016.