Isabelle Linares and Cesar Ramirez
What if we can control the organization of cells to form functional tissues, such as bone, lungs, and blood vessels, to repair damaged or diseased tissues in the body? This is the basis of tissue engineering, an interdisciplinary field aimed at improving, maintaining, or replacing biological tissues. Tissue scaffolds, which form the architecture that guides cells into functional tissues, are at the core of this field. Therefore, it is essential to understand and characterize scaffold structures to effectively induce and sustain cellular functions as they develop into tissues. Colloidal gels are promising biomaterials for scaffolds due to their highly-tunable nature. In the Biomaterials and Regenerative Therapeutics Laboratory, we worked on a project to characterize polyurethane-based colloidal gel microstructures and mechanics in development as a therapeutic biomaterial for regenerative applications, such as cartilage repair and blood vessel regeneration. Due to the differences in colloidal particle surface charges, we anticipate distinct microstructural and mechanical differences within our system which demonstrates the ability to manipulate their structures. By having this control over the scaffolds, we can ultimately fine-tune cell organization and interaction with the scaffold, thus engineering patient-specific tissues.
Colloidal gels are promising biomaterials in the design of bioactive scaffolds for tissue regeneration. However, the distinct mechanomorphology of polyurethane-based colloidal gels has not been elucidated. In the Biomaterials and Regenerative Therapeutics Laboratory, we used a bottom-up approach to create the gels by screening charges on ionic polyurethane particles. The gels can be engineered to regulate the microstructural morphology and mechanics in an independent manner due to the differential rate of screening between positively and negatively charged particles. The particles' aggregation mode controls the gel microstructure while the particle fraction determines gel stiffness and mechanics. Our goal is to characterize the differences between these colloids regarding their aggregation modes and mechanical properties. Characterizing the gel microstructures will ultimately allow us to create tunable 3D-structured tissue scaffolds capable of organizing cells in a distinct manner while providing desired mechanical cues.
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