Research Team

As principal investigator of the Cardiovascular Tissue Engineering Research Laboratory at Mayo Clinic, Leigh G. Griffiths, Ph.D., MRCVS, leads a team dedicated to improving the treatment of cardiovascular disease through discoveries in transplant immunology, regenerative medicine and tissue engineering.

Learn more about the key members of Dr. Griffiths' research team.

Leigh Griffiths, Ph.D., MRCVS

Dr. Griffiths is a veterinary cardiologist, cardiovascular surgeon and research scientist at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. He is also an associate professor of medicine at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science.

Dr. Griffiths graduated from the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom in 1995, spent a year in small animal practice and then completed a residency in small animal soft tissue surgery at the University of Glasgow School of Veterinary Medicine.

He earned a diploma in small animal surgery (soft tissue) from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons in 2000. Dr. Griffiths was the first veterinary surgeon in the United Kingdom to complete the Canniesburn Hospital microvascular surgery training course. In 1999, he accepted a position as a lecturer in small animal surgery at the University of Liverpool School of Veterinary Science.

Dr. Griffiths completed a fellowship in cardiac surgery at Colorado State University in 2003, followed by a Ph.D. and residency in cardiology. In 2007, he obtained his American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine Diploma of Cardiology.

In 2007, Dr. Griffiths joined the faculty of the University of California, Davis, where he ran the cardiovascular surgery program. He provided services for cardiac angiography and noninvasive tests, such as echocardiography and electrocardiography. He was also interested in interventional cardiology, including pacemaker implementation, balloon valvuloplasty and patent ductus arteriosus occlusion. Dr. Griffiths established a research laboratory at UC Davis in 2008, focusing on transplant immunology, xenogeneic extracellular matrix scaffolds and cardiovascular tissue engineering.

Dr. Griffiths joined Mayo Clinic in 2016 as a senior associate consultant II. At Mayo Clinic, Dr. Griffiths continues his basic science research work, identifying and ultimately overcoming barriers to transplantation of animal tissues for use in production of engineered tissues and organs for implantation in animal and human patients.

Lucien P. Jay

Jay's research in the lab focuses on the development of xenogeneic scaffolds for small artery grafting. His research builds off decellularization and antigen removal techniques developed by the lab, with potential focus areas including reseeding of decellularized scaffolds and their testing under physiologic conditions. Jay's clinical interests include interventional cardiology and cardiothoracic anesthesiology, which he hopes can help inform his research career in regenerative medicine. Jay is an M.D.-Ph.D. student in the Mayo Clinic Medical Scientist Training Program. He is from Charleston, South Carolina, where he attended the College of Charleston and received a B.S. in biochemistry and B.A. in chemistry in 2017.

David W. Morse

As a senior research technologist, Morse's responsibilities include managing our laboratory. He joined the lab in 2021 with years of experience in cardiovascular research, and has a background in biology, clinical laboratory science, and health and human services administration.

Morse received a bachelor of science degree in biology from Winona State University in Winona, Minnesota, completed practicums in clinical laboratory science with the University of North Dakota School of Medicine & Health Sciences, and continues in administrative postgraduate studies with Saint Mary's University of Minnesota. He obtained two associate of science degrees in laboratory science and allied health from Rochester Community and Technical College. Morse continues his career in laboratory management and cardiovascular research through completion of Mayo Clinic programs in Research Allied Health Supervision and Research Finance Administration.

Anjali Panicker, B.E., M.S.

Panicker's research focuses on the identification and stratification of non-HLA antigens in heart transplant recipients. The end goal of her project is to develop biomarker panels to aid in modeling of longitudinal rejection risk and individualized immunosuppression for heart transplant recipients.

Panicker is a first-year Ph.D. student in the immunology track at Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. She is from Mumbai, India, where she completed her bachelor's in biotechnology engineering. She then moved to the United States and received a master of science in medical biotechnology at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Nicholas A. Shortreed

Nick Shortreed is a graduate student in the Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. Originally from Mukwonago, Wisconsin, Shortreed graduated with a bachelor of science degree in neuroscience from Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Michigan, in 2019. He then joined the graduate school at Mayo Clinic in the summer of 2019, where he is working toward his Ph.D. in immunology with a regenerative sciences concentration.

Shortreed's research is focused on understanding the mechanisms of both the adaptive and innate immune responses against tissue-engineered biomaterials. Shortreed aims to modulate these factors in order to drive proregenerative adaptive and innate immune responses toward engineered xenogeneic biomaterials. Ultimately, the goal of his project is to inform future work in our laboratory in order to create unfixed, immunologically inert tissue-engineered biomaterials for cardiovascular regenerative applications.

Ali Babaie, Ph.D.

Dr. Babaie researches methods to enhance the antigen removal process — developed in Dr. Griffiths' lab — by targeting specific antigenic proteins. Dr. Babaie joined Dr. Griffiths' lab as a postdoctoral research fellow in May 2023. Dr. Babaie has a bachelor's degree in materials engineering and an MSc degree in tissue engineering. Dr. Babaie also holds a Ph.D. in stem cell biomaterials interactions from Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia. Before joining the lab, he was a postdoctoral researcher at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom, where he was working on tissue engineering research using 3D bioprinting.

Likitha Somasekhar, Ph.D.

Dr. Somasekhar works as a research fellow in the lab. Originally from India, Dr. Somasekhar received her bachelor in engineering degree in biotechnology and moved to the United States to receive her Master of Science and Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Florida. Her main research topic is whole-organ tissue engineering, with a focus on xenogeneic extracellular matrix (ECM) scaffolds. The main goal of this research is generating acellular ECM scaffolds to eliminate antigenic tissue components while retaining the native tissue ECM structure, composition, mechanical properties and biologic function.