Nanotechnology and Biomaterials

Nanotechnology and Biomaterials research ranges from the development of microfluidic devices and tissue engineered constructs to smart biomaterials and targeted drug delivery techniques for clinical application.  Additionally, these systems are being used to understand cellular behavior, with respect to differentiation and migration, and macroscopic cell-tissue interactions.

The following laboratories are within our Nanotechnology and Biomaterials focus area:


Bioresponsive Drug Delivery and Tissue Engineering Laboratory

Principal Investigator: Dr. Debra Auguste

The Bioresponsive Drug Delivery and Tissue Engineering Laboratory designs and synthesizes new biomaterials, exhibiting heterogenous features exemplified in nature, in order to improve drug and cell delivery.  A central theme is geared towards understanding how local organization affects global properties; a goal that is achieved by constructing biologically inspired materials at two length scales.  At the molecular level (<1μm), materials are created for targeted therapeutics allowing for drug delivery specifically to the site of injury.  At the cellular level (>1μm), materials are developed to further understand tissue architecture with respect to formation and cellular assembly, ultimately resulting in materials that mimic the native tissue environment. Current knowledge of cancer and vascular biology is applied to engineer new drug delivery and tissue engineering platforms.  


Vascular and Orthopedic Tissue Engineering Laboratory

Principal Investigator: Dr. Gilda Barabino

The Vascular and Orthopedic Tissue Engineering Laboratory is focused on cellular and tissue responses to fluid mechanical forces and biochemical cues in the context of vascular disease and orthopedic tissue engineering.  Their interdisciplinary work incorporates biology, materials science and engineering toward novel therapeutic strategies to improve the health of individuals suffering with sickle cell disease and diseases associated with cartilage and bone damage.  Models recapitulating the environment within the body are analyzed in order to better understand the pathophysiology of such diseases and the appropriate strategies for treatment. Complementary animals models are used to bridge translation of such findings to human clinical practice.  


Microcirculation Laboratory

Principal Investigator: Dr. Bingmei Fu

The Microcirculation Laboratory focuses on structure-function of the microvessel wall in health and disease. Current research includes the endothelial surface glycocalyx as a barrier to cancer cell adhesion and as a flow sensor; transvascular, transcellular and interstitial transport for water and solutes; signal transduction in endothelial cells under mechanical, chemical and physical stimuli; and regulation of the blood-brain barrier (BBB) by ultrasound and electrical stimuli. Intravital, confocal and multi-photon microscopy is employed to quantify the microvessel permeability, nitric oxide and Ca2+ production at individual microvessels in vivo. Stochastic Optical Reconstruction Microscopy (STORM) and confocal microscopy are used to characterize the nano-micro structure of the microvessel wall and endothelial monolayers. The observed information serves to develop and test mathematical models of microvascular transport in order to elucidate the underlying mechanisms.  The clinical applications are to inhibit tumor metastasis by strengthening the microvessel wall integrity and drug delivery to brain through the blood-brain barrier and cerebrospinal fluid.


Biosensors and Biomaterials Laboratory

Principal Investigator: Dr. Lane Gilchrist

The Biosensors and Biomaterials Laboratory is centered on the development of novel membrane protein-based biomolecular materials.  Such biomimetic materials are developed using membrane protein receptors and thermostable phospholipids enabling the display of functional receptors, transporters and enzymes.  These hybrid systems are based on a surface-tethered artificial cytoskeleton where membrane-protein-polymer bioconjugates anchor the lipid bilayer, allowing for membrane proteins to stably interface with materials. Imaging microscopy is being used to study the structure and function of these supramolecular assemblies and guide their fabrication.  These research efforts are geared towards the development of membrane protein arrays for drug discovery, proteolipobead molecules for targeted drug delivery, and biomimetic interfaces for interactions with living cells.


Connective Tissue Engineering Laboratory

Principal Investigator: Dr. Steven B. Nicoll

The Connective Tissue Engineering Laboratory incorporates the principles of cell and molecular biology, materials science, and mechanical engineering toward the development of living tissue surrogates for connective tissue restoration.  Plant derived materials are being manipulated for a variety of applications such as development of engineered cartilaginous tissue constructs and the creation of injectable fillers for facial reconstruction.  Within the tissue engineering focus, major efforts are being made to understand how environmental stimuli, both physical and biochemical, regulate the differentiation of novel progenitor cells such as human mesenchymal stem cells, toward specialized connective tissue cell lineages, such as chondrocytes or intervertebral disc cells. The cellulose based injectable filler platform is being explored as a mechanism for targeted drug delivery to aid in soft tissue healing, as well. 


Microfluidic Devices Laboratory

Principal Investigator: Dr. Maribel Vazquez

The Microfluidic Devices Laboratory is highly interdisciplinary, applying foundations of transport phenomena, microfabrication and biochemistry to the study of fundamental questions in cell biology. They are focused on the development of microfluidic devices and nanotechnology enabling them to image and analyze live cells and modulation of biomolecular markers. The primary foci of the lab are to investigate chemotaxis, cellular adhesion, proliferation and morphological changes observed during cell migration, specifically in the context of the brain tumor microenvironment and the neuromuscular junction. Additional areas of study include the role of progenitor migration in retinal regeneration and diffusion of chemotherapeutic agents within the brain. 


Microfluidic HTS Technology and Tissue Engineering Laboratory

Principal Investigator: Dr. Sihong Wang

The Microfluidic HTS Technology and Tissue Engineering Laboratory is directed at the development of three dimensional microfluidic devices to study signaling pathways (e.g. apoptosis and inflammation) for the high throughput screening (HTS) of potential drugs and to establish a platform for personalized medicine searching. The second major focus is to investigate thermal effects on tissue regeneration using stem cells and explore the role of heat shock proteins in tissue development, injury protection and repair.  Such mechanisms are being investigated in the regenerate of bone and cartilage tissues. Meanwhile, the lab is interested in the development of sub-cellular thermal sensors.