BioE Seminar: Biomaterial Design for 3D Hydrogel Microenvironments and Neural Tissue Engineering
Abstract: Neural regeneration within the central nervous system (CNS) is a critical unmet challenge as brain and spinal cord disorders continue to be the leading cause of disability nationwide. Engineering microenvironments conducive to stem cell guidance and neural cell growth in vitro and therapeutic regeneration in vivo can be addressed with hydrogel materials that mimic native neural tissue. Designer multifunctional materials are well-suited as they support independent tuning of multiple biochemical and biophysical properties and allow three-dimensional (3D) encapsulation of neural cells to create a physiologically relevant engineered extracellular matrix. We use a variety of both synthetic and recombinant building blocks to create tunable 3D hydrogels. Our hydrogels are based on synthetic polymers like poly(ethylene glycol) and poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid), a recombinant elastin-like protein (ELP), and self-assembling peptides. By carefully tuning the degradation rate, antioxidant properties, integrin-binding ligand density, topography, and elastic modulus, we engineer cell instructive and cell-responsive elements to directly influence stem cell differentiation and self-renewal. Our current work applies these concepts to the myelin-producing oligodendrocytes of the CNS, and their precursors, in an effort to enhance their maturation and therapeutic utility. This talk will also highlight our work in designing new peptide and protein materials.