Rodrigo Somoza Palacios, PhD

Research Assistant Professor
Department of Biology
Case Western Reserve University
Skeletal Research Center
Case Western Reserve University
Cancer Genomics and Epigenomics Program
Case Comprehensive Cancer Center

I am a Research Associate Professor in the Department of Biology at Case Western Reserve University, where I direct the Skeletal Research Center as well as cell manufacturing technology and research development at the Center of Modular Manufacturing of Structural Tissues. I have extensive expertise in the fields of regenerative medicine, tissue engineering, and cellular therapies. My research interests include mesenchymal stem cells, tissue engineering of cartilage, bone, muscle and skin, biosensor development, cancer metastasis, and pain. I have 20+ years of previous experience in stem cell biology. I have worked on the design and implementation of engineered cartilage and skin applications and cell therapy. For more than a decade, I have studied the role of MSCs (as perivascular cells) on cancer metastasis to bone. For this, my colleagues and I have developed animal models and in vitro assays to study the mechanisms of bone metastasis that are mediated by MSCs. I have developed skills in stem cell culture and differentiation, molecular biology, 3D culture strategies, bioprinting, animal models, biosensor design and implementation, pain biology and high-throughput data analysis. I have been working in novel approaches for cartilage repair and regeneration for more than a decade, focusing on adapting induced pluripotent cell technology to modulate the chondrogenic phenotype of MSCs. I’m developing more dynamic methodologies of differentiation and optimized imaging and reporter technologies to track differentiation molecular events. In addition, this work has led to the development of novel biosensor technologies that can be applied during the tissue engineering manufacturing process of not only cartilage, but other tissues as well. These new developments are now focused on the adaptation of CRISPRCas and aptamer technologies. Recently I have become very interested on the role of MSCs controlling pain. I’m using state-of-the-art technologies to study and identify molecules that MSCs produce that bind and activate opioid receptors. 

Interests: Cartilage Tissue Engineering, Somatic Stem Cell Biology, Reprogramming Technology (IPS), Cell Therapy and Tissue Regeneration, Cancer Metastasis.


Somoza, R.A. and Welter, J.F.: Isolation of Chondrocytes from Human Cartilage and Cultures in Monolayer and 3D. Methods Mol Biol. 2021;2245:1-12. doi: 10.1007/978-1-0716-1119-7_1. PMID: 33315191 

Dai, Y.; Xu, W.; Somoza, R.A.; Welter, J.F.; Caplan, A.I.; Liu, C.C.: An Integrated Multi-Function Heterogeneous Biochemical Circuit for High-Resolution Electrochemistry-Based Genetic Analysis. Angew Chem Int Ed Engl. 2020 Nov 9;59(46):20545-20551. doi: 10.1002/anie.202010648. PMID: 32835412 

Dai, Y.; Somoza, R.A.; Wang, L.; Welter, J.F.; Li, Y.; Caplan, A.I.; and Liu, C.C.: Exploring the Trans-Cleavage Activity of CRISPR Cas12a (cpf1) for the Development of a Universal Electrochemical Biosensor. Angew Chem Int Ed Engl. 2019 Sep 30. doi: 10.1002/anie.201910772. [Epub ahead of print] 

Vail, D.J.; Somoza, R.A.; Caplan, A.I.; and Khalil, A.M.: Transcriptome Dynamics of Long Non-Coding RNAs and Transcription Factors Demarcate Human Neonatal, Adult, and hMSC-derived Engineered Cartilage. J Tissue Eng Regen Med, 2019 doi: 10.1002/term.2961. [Epub ahead of print] 

Kenyon, J.D.; Sergeeva, O.; Somoza, R.A.; Caplan, A.I.; Khalil, A.M.; and Lee, Z.: Analysis of -5p and -3p Strands of miR-145 and miR-140 During Mesenchymal Stem Cell Chondrogenic Differentiation. Tissue Engineering 25(1-2):80-90, 2019. doi: 10.1089/ten.TEA.2017.0440. 

Sorrell, J.M.; Somoza, R.A.; and Caplan, A.I.: Human mesenchymal stem cells induced to differentiate as chondrocytes follow a biphasic pattern of extracellular matrix production. Journal of Orthopaedic Research 36(6):1757-1766. 2018, doi: 10.1002/jor.23820 Abstract

Correa, D.; Somoza, R.A.; and Caplan, A.I.: Non-destructive/non-invasive imaging evaluation of cellular differentiation progression during in vitro MSC-derived chondrogenesis. Tissue Eng Part A. 2017 doi: 10.1089/ten.TEA.2017.0125. [Epub ahead of print] 

Somoza, R.A.; Correa, D.; Labat, I.; Sternberg, H.; Forrest, M.E.; Khalil, A.M.; West, M.D.; Tesar, P.; and Caplan, A.I.: Transcriptome-wide analyses of human neonatal articular cartilage and human mesenchymal stem cell-derived cartilage provide a new molecular target for evaluating engineered cartilage. Tissue Engineering, Part A, DOI: 10.1089/ten.tea.2016.0559

Somoza, R.A.; Correa, D.; Labat, I.; Sternberg, H.; Forrest, M.E.; Khalil, A.M.; West, M.D.; Tesar, P.; and Caplan, A.I.: Human mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) do not make articular cartilage in vitro: Transcriptome-wide analyses of human neonatal cartilage provide a new molecular target for evaluating engineered cartilage. Tissue Engineering 2017 (Submitted)

Correa D.; Somoza, R.; Lin, P.; Schiemann, W.P.; and Caplan, A.I.: Mesenchymal stem cells regulate melanoma cancer cells extravasation to bone and liver at their perivascular niche. International Journal of Cancer 2016 138(2):417-27