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.

Qi Xing, Ph.D.

Dr. Xing, a postdoctoral fellow who joined our lab in 2017, focuses on cellular behavior on xenogeneic scaffolds in a cyclic stretch bioreactor. She primarily investigates the effects of different extracellular matrix ECM niches on human mesenchymal stem cell migration inside decellularized heart muscle and bovine pericardium.

Dr. Xing's previous research experience includes engineering small-diameter vascular graft and vascularized cell sheet using cell-derived extracellular matrix and human mesenchymal stem cells.

Dr. Xing obtained bachelor's and master's degrees in chemical engineering from Tianjin University in China. She received her Ph.D. in engineering from Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, Louisiana. She started postdoc training in 2012 in the area of stem cell and tissue engineering in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Michigan.

Manuela Lopera Higuita

Lopera Higuita, a doctoral candidate, researches the development of an antigen-free xenogeneic macrovasculature for use in a wide array of applications as coronary artery bypass grafts and arteriovenous shunts. She has also been involved in the production of antigen-free myocardium scaffolds used to influence the differentiation of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) into cardiomyocytes.

Lopera Higuita is a third-year Ph.D. student in the biomedical engineering and physiology track in the Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. Lopera Higuita is from Medellin, Colombia, and moved to the United States and attended North Dakota State University, graduating with honors with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering with an emphasis in biomedical engineering.

Lisa L. Nesbitt

As a research technologist, Nesbitt's primary responsibility is managing the Griffiths lab. She joined the lab in 2016 after working in many other areas at Mayo Clinic for more than 26 years.

Nesbitt received a bachelor of science degree with cell and molecular option from Winona State University in Winona, Minnesota. She completed her associate of arts degree in general education at Rochester Community and Technical College and later received an associate of science degree in conjunction with Mayo Clinic School of Health Sciences.

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.

Katherine M. Arnold

Arnold's research focuses on engineering of vascular grafts from xenogeneic arteries for use in coronary artery bypass. This work involves applying the laboratory's antigen removal process to xenogeneic vascular tissues and assessing their viability as small-diameter arterial grafts. She is working on optimizing a vessel perfusion bioreactor to achieve finer control of the antigen removal and scaffold recellularization processes.

Arnold is a second-year Ph.D. student in the biomedical engineering and physiology track at Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. She is originally from the United Kingdom, where she obtained a first-class integrated bachelor's/master's degree in mechanical engineering, with specialization in biomedical engineering from the University of Southampton.