Biomaterials for regenerative medicine
Intestine and retina are two generally understudied tissues in regenerative medicine. Accurate in vitro models of intestinal tissue would be highly useful for widely applied pharmaceutical testing. These same systems applied to intestinal regenerative medicine could greatly benefit short bowel syndrome (SBS) patients. Retinal degenerative diseases, such as macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa, currently have no cure; retinal regeneration, aided by retinal progenitor cells delivered with an appropriate biomaterial vehicle, could help restore vision.
We are developing novel biomimetic scaffolds for engineering intestine and retina, tissues in which distinct structural features of matrix (e.g., crypts and villi; sheaths surrounding cones and rods) strongly motivate study of materials with biomimetic structure. We are analyzing the impact of both approximate and precise biomimetic structure on cell differentiation. Multiple approaches to developing materials are being pursued: 1. lithographic techniques are being utilized to recreate micro-scale crypt-villus (micro-well – micro-pillar) unit arrays in a biopolymer membrane (intestine), 2. a novel method employing chemical vapor deposition (CVD) on native tissue is being utilized to recreate multiscale, irregular, complex features in a polymeric membrane (intestine), and 3. decellularized native tissue is being explored (retina). These approaches will shed light on importance of different scales and degrees of complexity of structure, as well as relative significance of structure and chemistry. In parallel, the migration of retinal progenitor cells through 3D matrices being explored as cell delivery vehicles or modeling the native retina is being studied using a system biology approach, to enable understanding of the cues and signaling cascades essential to cell migration, a process central to cellular therapies for retinal regeneration.