Dr. Lauren Kokai is a faculty member in the Department of Plastic Surgery, School of Medicine, co-director of the Adipose Stem Cell Center (ASCC) at the University of Pittsburgh and holds a faculty appointment with the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine. She completed her doctorate at the University of Pittsburgh, Department of Bioengineering, where she received an NIH Cellular Approaches to Tissue Engineering and Regeneration (CATER) Fellowship. After completing her PhD in Pittsburgh, Dr. Kokai worked as a Scientist at a leading international pharmaceutical company, Allergan Inc, where she received training in Good Laboratory Practice. After returning to academia, Dr. Kokai continued developing products for commercialization and has collaborated with several industry partners to bring products to market. She holds multiple patents for technologies designed for nerve and soft tissue reconstruction.
Dr. Kokai’s research focuses on clinical applications for adipose stem cells (ASCs) and on building new research tools with adipose tissue to study inflammation and metabolic disease, specifically with adipose tissue microphysiologic systems. Her research focuses on mechanisms through which adipocytes and ASCs modulate the immune system and she is currently combining adipose cells, endothelial cell and immune cells into hydrogels for microfluidic perfusion. Her training is supported by a National Endowment Award from the Plastic Surgery Foundation to study modulation of macrophage phenotypes in adipocyte and particulated adipose co-culture systems. Through this work, Dr. Kokai has developed new methods to isolate adipose cell types after tissue fixation to abrogate gene expression changes that occur with enzymatic digestion. Such work has allowed her to interrogate the contributions of each cell type to inflammation after culturing in complex, multi-cellular in vitro models.
Dr. Kokai is an ad-hoc reviewer for several journals, Biomaterials, Journal of Biomaterials Science: Polymer Edition, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, Aesthetic Surgery Journal, and Stem Cells and Development, to name a few.
View a list of Dr. Kokai’s publications here.