Advanced Functional Materials

Published by Wiley

Online ISSN: 1616-3028


Print ISSN: 1616-301X


Porous Structures: In situ Porous Structures: A Unique Polymer Erosion Mechanism in Biodegradable Dipeptide-Based Polyphosphazene and Polyester Blends Producing Matrices for Regenerative Engineering (Adv. Funct. Mater. 17/2010)
  • Article

September 2010


122 Reads

Meng Deng






Synthetic biodegradable polymers serve as temporary substrates that accommodate cell infiltration and tissue in-growth in regenerative medicine. To allow tissue in-growth and nutrient transport, traditional three-dimensional (3D) scaffolds must be prefabricated with an interconnected porous structure. Here we demonstrated for the first time a unique polymer erosion process through which polymer matrices evolve from a solid coherent film to an assemblage of microspheres with an interconnected 3D porous structure. This polymer system was developed on the highly versatile platform of polyphosphazene-polyester blends. Co-substituting a polyphosphazene backbone with both hydrophilic glycylglycine dipeptide and hydrophobic 4-phenylphenoxy group generated a polymer with strong hydrogen bonding capacity. Rapid hydrolysis of the polyester component permitted the formation of 3D void space filled with self-assembled polyphosphazene spheres. Characterization of such self-assembled porous structures revealed macropores (10-100 μm) between spheres as well as micro- and nanopores on the sphere surface. A similar degradation pattern was confirmed in vivo using a rat subcutaneous implantation model. 12 weeks of implantation resulted in an interconnected porous structure with 82-87% porosity. Cell infiltration and collagen tissue in-growth between microspheres observed by histology confirmed the formation of an in situ 3D interconnected porous structure. It was determined that the in situ porous structure resulted from unique hydrogen bonding in the blend promoting a three-stage degradation mechanism. The robust tissue in-growth of this dynamic pore forming scaffold attests to the utility of this system as a new strategy in regenerative medicine for developing solid matrices that balance degradation with tissue formation.

Figure 2. a) Confocal microscopy images of PLGA-PAA composite microneedles fabricated to encapsulate DiD-loaded PLGA microparticles (MP) (right, scale bar 200 μ m). SEM images of b) resulting microparticle-encapsulating microneedle array (scale bar 200 μ m) and c) high magnifi cation image of the composite needle interior of a fractured microneedle (scale bar 10 μ m). 
Schematic view of composite microparticle and bulk PLGA tip microneedle array fabrication. PDMS molds were first filled with PLGA microparticles through centrifugation (1). PLGA microparticles were then either dried in mold cavities (2a) or fused at high temperature to create a solid tip (2b). Concentrated aq. PAA solution was then centrifuged onto the filled molds to create a supportive matrix (3a) or pedestal (3b) for rapid dissolution in vivo. After drying microneedles were removed from PDMS molds (4a, 4b).
a) Confocal microscopy images of PLGA-PAA composite microneedles fabricated to encapsulate DiD-loaded PLGA microparticles (MP) (right, scale bar 200 μm). SEM images of b) resulting microparticle-encapsulating microneedle array (scale bar 200 μm) and c) high magnification image of the composite needle interior of a fractured microneedle (scale bar 10 μm).
a) Confocal microscopy images of PLGA-PAA composite microneedles fabricated with a PAA base and DiD-loaded solid PLGA tip (scale bar 200 μm). Confocal microscopy images of microneedles fabricated with varying amounts of DiD-loaded PLGA microparticles as indicated giving a range of PLGA tip sizes (b) and PAA pedestal heights (c).
a) Schematic of PAA/microparticle composite microneedle dissolution and confocal microscopy image of DiD-loaded PLGA microparticles recovered following 5 s exposure of composite microneedles to PBS solution (scale bar 10 μm). b) Schematic of PLGA solid tip microneedle dissolution and confocal microscopy image of DiD-loaded PLGA microneedle tips recovered following 5 s exposure of solid tip microneedles to PBS (scale bar 200 μm).


Drug Delivery: Composite Dissolving Microneedles for Coordinated Control of Antigen and Adjuvant Delivery Kinetics in Transcutaneous Vaccination (Adv. Funct. Mater. 2/2013)
  • Article
  • Full-text available

January 2013


1,050 Reads

Transcutaneous administration has the potential to improve therapeutics delivery, providing an approach that is safer and more convenient than traditional alternatives, while offering the opportunity for improved therapeutic efficacy through sustained/controlled drug release. To this end, we demonstrate a microneedle materials platform for rapid implantation of controlled-release polymer depots into the cutaneous tissue. Arrays of microneedles comprised of drug-loaded poly(lactide-co-glycolide) (PLGA) microparticles or solid PLGA tips were prepared with a supporting and rapidly water-soluble poly(acrylic acid) (PAA) matrix. Upon application of microneedle patches to the skin of mice, the microneedles perforated the stratum corneum and epidermis. Penetration of the outer skin layers was followed by rapid dissolution of the PAA binder on contact with the interstitial fluid of the epidermis, implanting the microparticles or solid polymer microneedles in the tissue, which were retained following patch removal. These polymer depots remained in the skin for weeks following application and sustained the release of encapsulated cargos for systemic delivery. To show the utility of this approach we demonstrated the ability of these composite microneedle arrays to deliver a subunit vaccine formulation. In comparison to traditional needle-based vaccination, microneedle delivery gave improved cellular immunity and equivalent generation of serum antibodies, suggesting the potential of this approach for vaccine delivery. However, the flexibility of this system should allow for improved therapeutic delivery in a variety of diverse contexts.

Micropatterning: Regulation of Stem Cell Fate in a Three-Dimensional Micropatterned Dual-Crosslinked Hydrogel System (Adv. Funct. Mater. 38/2013)

April 2013


126 Reads

Micropatterning technology is a powerful tool for controlling the cellular microenvironment and investigating the effects of physical parameters on cell behaviors, such as migration, proliferation, apoptosis, and differentiation. Although there have been significant developments in regulating the spatial and temporal distribution of physical properties in various materials, little is known about the role of the size of micropatterned regions of hydrogels with different crosslinking densities on the response of encapsulated cells. In this study, novel alginate hydrogel system is engineered that can be micropatterned three-dimensionally to create regions that are crosslinked by a single mechanism or dual mechanisms. By manipulating micropattern size while keeping the overall ratio of single- to dual-crosslinked hydrogel volume constant, the physical properties of the micropatterned alginate hydrogels are spatially tunable. When human adipose-derived stem cells (hASCs) are photoencapsulated within micropatterned hydrogels, their proliferation rate is a function of micropattern size. Additionally, micropattern size dictates the extent of osteogenic and chondrogenic differentiation of photoencapsulated hASC. The size of 3D micropatterned physical properties in this new hydrogel system introduces a new design parameter for regulating various cellular behaviors, and this dual-crosslinked hydrogel system provides a new platform for studying proliferation and differentiation of stem cells in a spatially controlled manner for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine applications.

3D Microperiodic Hydrogel Scaffolds for Robust Neuronal Cultures

January 2011


121 Reads

Three-dimensional (3D) microperiodic scaffolds of poly(2-hydroxyethyl methacrylate) (pHEMA) have been fabricated by direct-write assembly of a photopolymerizable hydrogel ink. The ink is initially composed of physically entangled pHEMA chains dissolved in a solution of HEMA monomer, comonomer, photoinitiator and water. Upon printing 3D scaffolds of varying architecture, the ink filaments are exposed to UV light, where they are transformed into an interpenetrating hydrogel network of chemically cross-linked and physically entangled pHEMA chains. These 3D microperiodic scaffolds are rendered growth compliant for primary rat hippocampal neurons by absorption of polylysine. Neuronal cells thrive on these scaffolds, forming differentiated, intricately branched networks. Confocal laser scanning microscopy reveals that both cell distribution and extent of neuronal process alignment depend upon scaffold architecture. This work provides an important step forward in the creation of suitable platforms for in vitro study of sensitive cell types.

Preparation and Characterization of a pH‐ and Thermally Responsive Poly(N‐isopropylacrylamide‐co‐acrylic acid)/Porous SiO2 Hybrid

March 2010


32 Reads

A multifunctional nanohybrid composed of a pH- and thermoresponsive hydrogel, poly(N-isopropylacrylamide-co-acrylic acid), poly(NIPAM-co-AAc) is synthesized in-situ within the mesopores of an oxidized porous Si template. The hybrid is characterized by electron microscopy and by thin film optical interference spectroscopy. The optical reflectivity spectrum of the hybrid displays Fabry-Pérot fringes characteristic of thin film optical interference, enabling direct, real-time observation of the pH- induced swelling and volume phase transitions associated with the confined poly(NIPAM-co-AAc) hydrogel. The optical response correlates to the percentage of AAc contained within the hydrogel, with a maximum change observed for samples containing 20% AAc. The swelling kinetics of the hydrogel are significantly altered due to the nanoscale confinement; displaying a more rapid response to pH or heating stimuli relative to bulk polymer films. The inclusion of AAc dramatically alters the thermoresponsiveness of the hybrid at pH 7, effectively eliminating the lower critical solution temperature (LCST). The observed changes in the optical reflectivity spectrum are interpreted in terms of changes in the dielectric composition and morphology of the hybrids.

Inflammatory Cytokines Presented from Polymer Matrices Differentially Generate and Activate DCs In Situ

September 2013


66 Reads

During infection, inflammatory cytokines mobilize and activate dendritic cells (DCs), which are essential for efficacious T cell priming and immune responses that clear the infection. Here we designed macroporous poly(lactide-co-glycolide) (PLG) matrices to release the inflammatory cytokines GM-CSF, Flt3L and CCL20, in order to mimic infection-induced DC recruitment. We then tested the ability of these infection mimics to function as cancer vaccines via induction of specific, anti-tumor T cell responses. All vaccine systems tested were able to confer specific anti-tumor T cell responses and longterm survival in a therapeutic, B16-F10 melanoma model. However, GM-CSF and Flt3L vaccines resulted in similar survival rates, and outperformed CCL20 loaded scaffolds, even though they had differential effects on DC recruitment and generation. GM-CSF signaling was identified as the most potent chemotactic factor for conventional DCs and significantly enhanced surface expression of MHC(II) and CD86(+), which are utilized for priming T cell immunity. In contrast, Flt3L vaccines led to greater numbers of plasmacytoid DCs (pDCs), correlating with increased levels of T cell priming cytokines that amplify T cell responses. These results demonstrate that 3D polymer matrices modified to present inflammatory cytokines may be utilized to effectively mobilize and activate different DC subsets in vivo for immunotherapy.

Bioinspired Directional Surfaces for Adhesion, Wetting, and Transport

June 2012


176 Reads

In Nature, directional surfaces on insect cuticle, animal fur, bird feathers, and plant leaves are comprised of dual micro-nanoscale features that tune roughness and surface energy. This feature article summarizes experimental and theoretical approaches for the design, synthesis and characterization of new bioinspired surfaces demonstrating unidirectional surface properties. The experimental approaches focus on bottom-up and top-down synthesis methods of unidirectional micro- and nanoscale films to explore and characterize their anomalous features. The theoretical component of the review focuses on computational tools to predict the physicochemical properties of unidirectional surfaces.

Biological Assemblies Provide Novel Templates for the Synthesis of Biocomposites and Facilitate Cell Adhesion

December 2008


51 Reads

Mechanical mismatch and the lack of interactions between implants and the natural tissue environment are major drawbacks in bone tissue engineering. Biomaterials mimicking the self-assembly process and the composition of the bone matrix should provide new routes for fabricating biomaterials possessing novel osteoconductive and osteoinductive properties for bone repair. In the present study, bioinspired strategies are employed to design de novo self-assembled chimeric protein hydrogels comprising leucine zipper motifs flanking a dentin matrix protein 1 domain, which is characterized as a mineralization nucleator. Results show that this chimeric protein could function as a hydroxyapatite nucleator in pseudo-physiological buffer with the formation of highly oriented apatites similar to biogenic bone mineral. It could also function as an inductive substrate for osteoblast adhesion, promote cell surface integrin presentation and clusterin, and modulate the formation of focal contacts. Such biomimetic 9 "bottom-up" construction with dual osteoconductive and osteoinductive properties should open new avenues for bone tissue engineering.

Affinity-Based Protein Surface Pattern Formation by Ligand Self-Selection from Mixed Protein Solutions

October 2009


40 Reads

Photolithographically prepared surface patterns of two affinity ligands (biotin and chloroalkane) specific for two proteins (streptavidin and HaloTag®, respectively) are used to spontaneously form high-fidelity surface patterns of the two proteins from their mixed solution. High affinity protein-surface self-selection onto patterned ligands on surfaces exhibiting low non-specific adsorption rapidly yields the patterned protein surfaces. Fluorescence images after protein immobilization show high specificity of the target proteins to their respective surface patterned ligands. Time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry (ToF-SIMS) imaging further supports the chemical specificity of streptavidin and HaloTag® for their surface patterned ligands from mixed protein solutions. However, ToF-SIMS did detect some non-specific adsorption of bovine serum albumin, a masking protein present in excess in the adsorbing solutions, on the patterned surfaces. Protein amino acid composition, surface coverage, density and orientation are important parameters that determine the relative ToF-SIMS fragmentation pattern yields. ToF-SIMS amino acid-derived ion fragment yields summed to produce surface images can reliably determine which patterned surface regions contain bound proteins, but do not readily discriminate between different co-planar protein regions. Principal component analysis (PCA) of these ToF-SIMS data, however, improves discrimination of ions specific to each protein, facilitating surface pattern discrimination and contrast.

Heterointegration of Pt/Si/Ag Nanowire Photodiodes and Their Photocatalytic Properties

September 2010


136 Reads

Photocatalyst mediated photoelectrochemical processes can make use of the photogenerated electrons and holes onsite for photocatalytic redox reactions, and enable the harness and conversion of solar energy into chemical energy, in analogy to natural photosynthesis. However, the photocatalysts available to date are limited by either poor efficiency in the visible light range or insufficient photoelectrochemical stability. We show that a Pt/Si/Ag nanowire heterostructure can be rationally synthesized to integrate a nanoscale metal-semiconductor Schottky diode encased in a protective insulating shell with two exposed metal catalysts. The synthesis of Pt/Si/Ag nanowire diodes involves a scalable process including the formation of silicon nanowire array through wet chemical etching, electrodeposition of platinum and photoreduction of silver. We further demonstrated that the Pt/Si/Ag diodes exhibited highly efficient photocatalytic activity for a wide range of applications including environmental remediation and solar fuel production in the visible range. In this article, photodegradation of indigo carmine and 4-nitrophenol were used to evaluate the photoactivity of Pt/Si/Ag diodes. The Pt/Si/Ag diodes also show high activity for photoconversion of formic acid into carbon dioxide and hydrogen.

Biohybrid Carbon Nanotube/Agarose Fibers for Neural Tissue Engineering

July 2011


107 Reads

We report a novel approach for producing carbon nanotube fibers (CNF) composed with the polysaccharide agarose. Current attempts to make CNF's require the use of a polymer or precipitating agent in the coagulating bath that may have negative effects in biomedical applications. We show that by taking advantage of the gelation properties of agarose one can substitute the bath with distilled water or ethanol and hence reduce the complexity associated with alternating the bath components or the use of organic solvents. We also demonstrate that these CNF can be chemically functionalized to express biological moieties through available free hydroxyl groups in agarose. We corroborate that agarose CNF are not only conductive and nontoxic, but their functionalization can facilitate cell attachment and response both in vitro and in vivo. Our findings suggest that agarose/CNT hybrid materials are excellent candidates for applications involving neural tissue engineering and biointerfacing with the nervous system.

Time Controlled Protein Release from Layer-by-Layer Assembled Multilayer Functionalized Agarose Hydrogels

January 2010


62 Reads

Axons of the adult central nervous system exhibit an extremely limited ability to regenerate after spinal cord injury. Experimentally generated patterns of axon growth are typically disorganized and randomly oriented. Support of linear axonal growth into spinal cord lesion sites has been demonstrated using arrays of uniaxial channels, templated with agarose hydrogel, and containing genetically engineered cells that secrete brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). However, immobilizing neurotrophic factors secreting cells within a scaffold is relatively cumbersome, and alternative strategies are needed to provide sustained release of BDNF from templated agarose scaffolds. Existing methods of loading the drug or protein into hydrogels cannot provide sustained release from templated agarose hydrogels. Alternatively, here it is shown that pH-responsive H-bonded poly(ethylene glycol)(PEG)/poly(acrylic acid)(PAA)/protein hybrid layer-by-layer (LbL) thin films, when prepared over agarose, provided sustained release of protein under physiological conditions for more than four weeks. Lysozyme, a protein similar in size and isoelectric point to BDNF, is released from the multilayers on the agarose and is biologically active during the earlier time points, with decreasing activity at later time points. This is the first demonstration of month-long sustained protein release from an agarose hydrogel, whereby the drug/protein is loaded separately from the agarose hydrogel fabrication process.

Porous Polymersomes with Encapsulated Gd‐Labeled Dendrimers as Highly Efficient MRI Contrast Agents

December 2009


32 Reads

The use of nanovesicles with encapsulated Gd as MR contrast agents has largely been ignored due to the detrimental effects of the slow water exchange rate through the vesicle bilayer on the relaxivity of encapsulated Gd. Here, we describe the facile synthesis of a composite MR contrast platform, consisting of dendrimer conjugates encapsulated in porous polymersomes. These nanoparticles exhibit improved permeability to water flux and a large capacity to store chelated Gd within the aqueous lumen, resulting in enhanced longitudinal relaxivity. The porous polymersomes, ~130 nm in diameter, were produced through the aqueous assembly of the polymers, polyethylene oxide-b-polybutadiene (PBdEO), and polyethylene oxide-b-polycaprolactone (PEOCL). Subsequent hydrolysis of the caprolactone (CL) block resulted in a highly permeable outer membrane. To prevent the leakage of small Gd-chelate through the pores, Gd was conjugated to PAMAM dendrimer via diethylenetriaminepentaacetic acid dianhydride (DTPA dianhydride) prior to encapsulation. As a result of the slower rotational correlation time of Gd-labeled dendrimers, the porous outer membrane of the nanovesicle, and the high Gd payload, these functional nanoparticles were found to exhibit a relaxivity (R1) of 292,109 mM(-1) s(-1) per particle. The polymersomes were also found to exhibit unique pharmacokinetics with a circulation half-life of >3.5 hrs and predominantly renal clearance.

Aligned Protein–Polymer Composite Fibers Enhance Nerve Regeneration: A Potential Tissue-Engineering Platform

February 2007


67 Reads

Sustained release of proteins from aligned polymeric fibers holds great potential in tissue-engineering applications. These protein-polymer composite fibers possess high surface-area-to-volume ratios for cell attachment, and can provide biochemical and topographic cues to enhance tissue regeneration. Aligned biodegradable polymeric fibers that encapsulate human glial cell-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF, 0.13 wt%) were fabricated via electrospinning a copolymer of caprolactone and ethyl ethylene phosphate (PCLEEP) with GDNF. The protein was randomly dispersed throughout the polymer matrix in aggregate form, and released in a sustained manner for up to two months. The efficacy of these composite fibers was tested in a rat model for peripheral nerve-injury treatment. Rats were divided into four groups, receiving either empty PCLEEP tubes (control); tubes with plain PCLEEP electrospun fibers aligned longitudinally (EF-L) or circumferentially (EF-C); or tubes with aligned GDNF-PCLEEP fibers (EF-L-GDNF). After three months, bridging of a 15 mm critical defect gap by the regenerated nerve was observed in all the rats that received nerve conduits with electrospun fibers, as opposed to 50% in the control group. Electrophysiological recovery was seen in 20%, 33%, and 44% of the rats in the EF-C, EF-L, and EF-L-GDNF groups respectively, whilst none was observed in the controls. This study has demonstrated that, without further modification, plain electrospun fibers can help in peripheral nerve regeneration; however, the synergistic effect of an encapsulated growth factor facilitated a more significant recovery. This study also demonstrated the novel use of electrospinning to incorporate biochemical and topographical cues into a single implant for in vivo tissue-engineering applications.

Endosomolytic Anionic Polymer for the Cytoplasmic Delivery of siRNAs in Localized In Vivo Applications

February 2013


97 Reads

The use of small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) to down-regulate the expression of disease-associated proteins carries significant promise for the treatment of a variety of clinical disorders. One of the main barriers to the widespread clinical use of siRNAs, however, is their entrapment and degradation within the endolysosomal pathway of target cells. Here we report the trafficking and function of PP75, a non-toxic, biodegradable, lipid membrane disruptive anionic polymer composed of phenylalanine derivatized poly(L-lysine iso-phthalamide). PP75 is readily endocytosed by cells, safely permeabilizes endolysosomes in a pH dependent manner and facilitates the transfer of co-endocytosed materials directly into the cytoplasm. The covalent attachment of siRNAs to PP75 using disulfide linkages generates conjugates that effectively traffic siRNAs to the cytoplasm of target cells both in vitro and in vivo. In a subcutaneous malignant glioma tumor model, a locally delivered PP75-stathmin siRNA conjugate decreases stathmin expression in tumor cells and, in combination with the nitrosourea chemotherapy carmustine, is highly effective at inhibiting tumor growth. PP75 may be clinically useful for the local delivery of siRNAs, in particular for the treatment of solid tumors.

Preparation and Characterization of Molecularly Imprinted Polymeric Nanoparticles for Atrial Natriuretic Peptide (ANP)

December 2011


139 Reads

Natriuretic peptide receptor A (NPRA), the receptor for the cardiac hormone atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP), is expressed abundantly on cancer cells and disruption of ANP-NPRA signaling inhibits tumor burden and metastasis. Since antagonists of NPRA signaling have not provided reproducible results, we reasoned that a synthetic neutralizing antibody to ANP, which has high selectivity and affinity for ANP, could be used to regulate ANP levels and attenuate NPRA signaling. In this study, we prepared molecularly imprinted polymer nanoparticles (MIPNPs) for ANP using a short peptide of ANP as the template and determined their binding affinity and selectivity. The MIPNPs were prepared by precipitation polymerization using NH2-SLRRSS-CONH2, which is a short peptide from ANP as template, methacrylic acid (MAA) and N-isopropylacrylamide (NIPAm) as functional monomers, bis-acrylamide (BIS) as crosslinker. The average diameter of MIPNPs and non-imprinted nanoparticles (NIPNPs) in water is 215.8 ±4.6 nm and 197.7±3.1 nm respectively. The binding isotherm analysis showed that MIPNPs have a much higher binding affinity for template peptide and ANP than NIPNPs. Scatchard analysis gave an equilibrium dissociation constant, Kd of 7.3 μM with a binding capacity 106.7 μmol/g for template peptide and Kd of 7.9 μM with a binding capacity of 36.0 μmol/g for ANP. Measurements of binding kinetics revealed that MIPNPs reach protein adsorption equilibrium in 30 min. MIPNPs found to have high specificity for ANP with little affinity for BSA or scrambled ANP peptide. MIPNPs also recognized and adsorbed ANP in cell culture media spiked with ANP and human plasma. Taken together, these results indicate that MIPNPs have high affinity and selectivity for ANP and can be used as a synthetic antibody for modulating ANP-NPRA signaling in cancers.

Antibiotic-Releasing Silk Biomaterials for Infection Prevention and Treatment

February 2013


130 Reads

Effective treatment of infections in avascular and necrotic tissues can be challenging due to limited penetration into the target tissue and systemic toxicities. Controlled release polymer implants have the potential to achieve the high local concentrations needed while also minimizing systemic exposure. Silk biomaterials possess unique characteristics for antibiotic delivery including biocompatibility, tunable biodegradation, stabilizing effects, water-based processing and diverse material formats. We report on functional release of antibiotics spanning a range of chemical properties from different material formats of silk (films, microspheres, hydrogels, coatings). The release of penicillin and ampicillin from bulk-loaded silk films, drug-loaded silk microspheres suspended in silk hydrogels and bulk-loaded silk hydrogels was investigated and in vivo efficacy of ampicillin-releasing silk hydrogels was demonstrated in a murine infected wound model. Silk sponges with nanofilm coatings were loaded with gentamicin and cefazolin and release was sustained for 5 and 3 days, respectively. The capability of silk antibiotic carriers to sequester, stabilize and then release bioactive antibiotics represents a major advantage over implants and pumps based on liquid drug reservoirs where instability at room or body temperature is limiting. The present studies demonstrate that silk biomaterials represent a novel, customizable antibiotic platform for focal delivery of antibiotics using a range of material formats (injectable to implantable).

Sustained Release of a Monoclonal Antibody from Electrochemically Prepared Mesoporous Silicon Oxide

December 2010


157 Reads

Nanostructured mesoporous silica (SiO(2)) films are used to load and release the monoclonal antibody bevacizumab (Avastin) in vitro. A biocompatible and biodegradable form of mesoporous SiO(2) is prepared by electrochemical etching of single crystalline Si, followed by thermal oxidation in air at 800 °C. Porous SiO(2) exhibits a negative surface charge at physiological pH (7.4), allowing it to spontaneously adsorb the positively charged antibody from an aqueous phosphate buffered saline solution. This electrostatic adsorption allows bevacizumab to be concentrated by >100× (300 mg bevacziumab per gram of porous SiO(2) when loaded from a 1 mg mL(-1) solution of bevacziumab). Drug loading is monitored by optical interferometric measurements of the thin porous film. A two-component Bruggeman effective medium model is employed to calculate percent porosity and film thickness, and is further used to determine the extent of drug loading into the porous SiO(2) film. In vitro drug release profiles are characterized by an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), which confirms that the antibody is released in its active, VEGF-binding form. The nanostructured delivery system described here provides a sustained release of the monoclonal antibody where approximately 98% of drug is released over a period of one month.

Hydrogel-Forming Microneedle Arrays for Enhanced Transdermal Drug Delivery

December 2012


1,223 Reads

Unique microneedle arrays prepared from crosslinked polymers, which contain no drug themselves, are described. They rapidly take up skin interstitial fluid upon skin insertion to form continuous, unblockable, hydrogel conduits from attached patch-type drug reservoirs to the dermal microcirculation. Importantly, such microneedles, which can be fabricated in a wide range of patch sizes and microneedle geometries, can be easily sterilized, resist hole closure while in place, and are removed completely intact from the skin. Delivery of macromolecules is no longer limited to what can be loaded into the microneedles themselves and transdermal drug delivery is now controlled by the crosslink density of the hydrogel system rather than the stratum corneum, while electrically modulated delivery is also a unique feature. This technology has the potential to overcome the limitations of conventional microneedle designs and greatly increase the range of the type of drug that is deliverable transdermally, with ensuing benefits for industry, healthcare providers and, ultimately, patients.

Composite Three-Dimensional Woven Scaffolds with Interpenetrating Network Hydrogels to Create Functional Synthetic Articular Cartilage

December 2013


213 Reads

The development of synthetic biomaterials that possess mechanical properties that mimic those of native tissues remains an important challenge to the field of materials. In particular, articular cartilage is a complex nonlinear, viscoelastic, and anisotropic material that exhibits a very low coefficient of friction, allowing it to withstand millions of cycles of joint loading over decades of wear. Here we show that a three-dimensionally woven fiber scaffold that is infiltrated with an interpenetrating network hydrogel can provide a functional biomaterial that provides the load-bearing and tribological properties of native cartilage. An interpenetrating dual-network "tough-gel" consisting of alginate and polyacrylamide was infused into a porous three-dimensionally woven poly(ε-caprolactone) fiber scaffold, providing a versatile fiber-reinforced composite structure as a potential acellular or cell-based replacement for cartilage repair.

Integration of Self-Assembled Microvascular Networks with Microfabricated PEG-Based Hydrogels

November 2012


79 Reads

Despite tremendous efforts, tissue engineered constructs are restricted to thin, simple tissues sustained only by diffusion. The most significant barrier in tissue engineering is insufficient vascularization to deliver nutrients and metabolites during development in vitro and to facilitate rapid vascular integration in vivo. Tissue engineered constructs can be greatly improved by developing perfusable microvascular networks in vitro in order to provide transport that mimics native vascular organization and function. Here a microfluidic hydrogel is integrated with a self-assembling pro-vasculogenic co-culture in a strategy to perfuse microvascular networks in vitro. This approach allows for control over microvascular network self-assembly and employs an anastomotic interface for integration of self-assembled micro-vascular networks with fabricated microchannels. As a result, transport within the system shifts from simple diffusion to vessel supported convective transport and extra-vessel diffusion, thus improving overall mass transport properties. This work impacts the development of perfusable prevascularized tissues in vitro and ultimately tissue engineering applications in vivo.

Electric Field Controlled Self-Assembly of Hierarchically Ordered Membranes

January 2012


76 Reads

Self-assembly in the presence of external forces is an adaptive, directed organization of molecular components under nonequilibrium conditions. While forces may be generated as a result of spontaneous interactions among components of a system, intervention with external forces can significantly alter the final outcome of self-assembly. Superimposing these intrinsic and extrinsic forces provides greater degrees of freedom to control the structure and function of self-assembling materials. In this work we investigate the role of electric fields during the dynamic self-assembly of a negatively charged polyelectrolyte and a positively charged peptide amphiphile in water leading to the formation of an ordered membrane. In the absence of electric fields, contact between the two solutions of oppositely charged molecules triggers the growth of closed membranes with vertically oriented fibrils that encapsulate the polyelectrolyte solution. This process of self-assembly is intrinsically driven by excess osmotic pressure of counterions, and the electric field is found to modify the kinetics of membrane formation, and also its morphology and properties. Depending on the strength and orientation of the field we observe a significant increase or decrease of up to nearly 100% in membrane thickness, as well as the controlled rotation of nanofiber growth direction by 90 degrees, resulting in a significant increase in mechanical stiffness. These results suggest the possibility of using electric fields to control structure in self-assembly processes involving diffusion of oppositely charged molecules.

Rapid and Facile Microwave-Assisted Surface Chemistry for Functionalized Microarray Slides

February 2012


144 Reads

We describe a rapid and facile method for surface functionalization and ligand patterning of glass slides based on microwave-assisted synthesis and a microarraying robot. Our optimized reaction enables surface modification 42-times faster than conventional techniques and includes a carboxylated self-assembled monolayer, polyethylene glycol linkers of varying length, and stable amide bonds to small molecule, peptide, or protein ligands to be screened for binding to living cells. We also describe customized slide racks that permit functionalization of 100 slides at a time to produce a cost-efficient, highly reproducible batch process. Ligand spots can be positioned on the glass slides precisely using a microarraying robot, and spot size adjusted for any desired application. Using this system, we demonstrate live cell binding to a variety of ligands and optimize PEG linker length. Taken together, the technology we describe should enable high-throughput screening of disease-specific ligands that bind to living cells.

Biodegradable Porous Silicon Barcode Nanowires with Defined Geometry

July 2010


182 Reads

Silicon nanowires are of proven importance in diverse fields such as energy production and storage, flexible electronics, and biomedicine due to the unique characteristics emerging from their one-dimensional semiconducting nature and their mechanical properties. Here we report the synthesis of biodegradable porous silicon barcode nanowires by metal assisted electroless etch of single crystal silicon with resistivity ranging from 0.0008 Ω-cm to 10 Ω-cm. We define the geometry of the barcode nanowiresby nanolithography and we characterize their multicolor reflectance and photoluminescence. We develop phase diagrams for the different nanostructures obtained as a function of metal catalyst, H(2)O(2) concentration, ethanol concentration and silicon resistivity, and propose a mechanism that explains these observations. We demonstrate that these nanowires are biodegradable, and their degradation time can be modulated by surface treatments.

Stable Encapsulation of QD Barcodes with Silica Shells

November 2010


64 Reads

Quantum dot-doped mesoporous microbeads (QDMMs) are encapsulated with silica shells for enhanced chemical stability. The results show that a micro-emulsion procedure is highly efficient in coating QDMMs with polyvinyl alcohol (PVA), which is important in the subsequent deposition of a silica shell. Incorporation of fluorescent silane precursors allows direct observation of silica shells by fluorescence microscopy. The resulting silica coated QDMMs (QDMM@SiO(2)) exhibit remarkable stability against solvent-induced QD leaching and chemical-induced fluorescence quenching compared with uncoated QDMMs. Further development of this technology such as optimization of silica shell thickness, surface modification with non-fouling polymers, and conjugation with biomolecular probes will enable clinical translation of the optical barcoding technology for highly multiplexed detection and screening of genes and proteins.

Discoidal Porous Silicon Particles: Fabrication and Biodistribution in Breast Cancer Bearing Mice

October 2012


241 Reads

Porous silicon (pSi) is emerging as a promising material in the development of nanovectors for the systemic delivery of therapeutic and imaging agents. The integration of photolithographic patterning, typical of the semiconductor industry, with electrochemical silicon etching provides a highly flexible strategy to fabricate monodisperse and precisely tailored nanovectors. Here, a microfabrication strategy for direct lithographic patterning of discoidal pSi particles is presented that enables precise and independent control over particle size, shape, and porous structure. Discoidal pSi nanovectors with diameters ranging from 500 to 2600 nm, heights from 200 to 700 nm, pore sizes from 5 to 150 nm, and porosities from 40 to 90% are demonstrated. The degradation in serum, interaction with immune and endothelial cells in vitro, and biodistribution in mice bearing breast tumors are assessed for two discoidal nanovectors with sizes of 600 nm × 400 nm and 1000 nm × 400 nm. It is shown that both particle types are degraded after 24 h of continuous gentle agitation in serum, do not stimulate cytokine release from macrophages or affect endothelial cell viability, and accumulate up to about 10% of the injected dose per gram tissue in orthotopic murine models of breast cancer. The accumulation of the discoidal pSi nanovectors into the breast tumor mass is found to be up to five times higher than for spherical silica beads with similar diameters.

Strong, Tailored, Biocompatible Shape-Memory Polymer Networks

August 2008


108 Reads

Shape-memory polymers are a class of smart materials that have recently been used in intelligent biomedical devices and industrial applications for their ability to change shape under a predetermined stimulus. In this study, photopolymerized thermoset shape-memory networks with tailored thermomechanics are evaluated to link polymer structure to recovery behavior. Methyl methacrylate (MMA) and poly(ethylene glycol) dimethacrylate (PEGDMA) are copolymerized to create networks with independently adjusted glass transition temperatures (T(g)) and rubbery modulus values ranging from 56 to 92 °C and 9.3 to 23.0 MPa, respectively. Free-strain recovery under isothermal and transient temperature conditions is highly influenced by the T(g) of the networks, while the rubbery moduli of the networks has a negligible effect on this response. The magnitude of stress generation of fixed-strain recovery correlates with network rubbery moduli, while fixed-strain recovery under isothermal conditions shows a complex evolution for varying T(g). The results are intended to help aid in future shape-memory device design and the MMA-co-PEGDMA network is presented as a possible high strength shape-memory biomaterial.

Fabrication of Density Gradients of Biodegradable Polymer Microparticles and Their Use in Guiding Neurite Outgrowth

May 2010


59 Reads

We report a new method for generating both continuous and discrete density gradients in microparticles of biodegradable polymers via an electrospray technique. The gradients were generated by spatially varying the deposition time of electrosprayed microparticles. The substrate coated with a density gradient of microparticles has varying surface roughness, offering a unique system for studying the effect of physical cues on neurite outgrowth from dorsal root ganglia. We obtained an optimal surface roughness for promoting neuron adhesion and neurite extension in vitro. Furthermore, this capability of approach was extended to generate a gradient of fluorescein isothiocyanate-labeled bovine serum albumin by encapsulating it in the polymer microparticles in situ during electrospray. Taken together, this new class of substrates with gradients of microparticle density can potentially be used in various biomedical applications such as neural tissue engineering.

Biomaterials that Regulate Growth Factor Activity via Bioinspired Interactions

May 2011


75 Reads

Growth factor activity is localized within the natural extracellular matrix (ECM) by specific non-covalent interactions with core ECM biomolecules, such as proteins and proteoglycans. Recently, these interactions have inspired us and others to develop synthetic biomaterials that can non-covalently regulate growth factor activity for tissue engineering applications. For example, biomaterials covalently or non-covalently modified with heparin glycosaminoglycans can augment growth factor release strategies. In addition, recent studies demonstrate that biomaterials modified with heparin-binding peptides can sequester cell-secreted heparin proteoglycans and, in turn, sequester growth factors and regulate stem cell behavior. Another set of studies show that modular versions of growth factor molecules can be designed to interact with specific components of natural and synthetic ECMs, including collagen and hydroxyapatite. In addition, layer-by-layer assemblies of GAGs and other natural polyelectrolytes retain growth factors at a cell-material interface via specific non-covalent interactions. This review will detail the various bioinspired strategies being used to non-covalently localize growth factor activity within biomaterials, and will highlight in vivo examples of the efficacy of these materials to promote tissue regeneration.

Bioinspired Strong and Highly Porous Glass Scaffolds

March 2011


132 Reads

The quest for more efficient energy-related technologies is driving the development of porous and high-performance structural materials with exceptional mechanical strength. Natural materials achieve their strength through complex hierarchical designs and anisotropic structures that are extremely difficult to replicate synthetically. We emulate nature's design by direct-ink-write assembling of glass scaffolds with a periodic pattern, and controlled sintering of the filaments into anisotropic constructs similar to biological materials. The final product is a porous glass scaffold with a compressive strength (136 MPa) comparable to that of cortical bone and a porosity (60%) comparable to that of trabecular bone. The strength of this porous glass scaffold is ~100 times that of polymer scaffolds and 4-5 times that of ceramic and glass scaffolds with comparable porosities reported elsewhere. The ability to create both porous and strong structures opens a new avenue for fabricating scaffolds for a broad array of applications, including tissue engineering, filtration, lightweight composites, and catalyst support.

Rapid Generation of Biologically Relevant Hydrogels Containing Long-Range Chemical Gradients

January 2010


73 Reads

Many biological processes are regulated by gradients of bioactive chemicals. Thus, the generation of materials with embedded chemical gradients may be beneficial for understanding biological phenomena and generating tissue-mimetic constructs. Here we describe a simple and versatile method to rapidly generate materials containing centimeter-long gradients of chemical properties in a microfluidic channel. The formation of chemical gradient was initiated by a passive-pump-induced forward flow and further developed during an evaporation-induced backward flow. The gradient was spatially controlled by the backward flow time and the hydrogel material containing the gradient was synthesized via photopolymerization. Gradients of a cell-adhesion ligand, Arg-Gly-Asp-Ser (RGDS), was incorporated in the poly(ethylene glycol)-diacrylate (PEG-DA) hydrogels to test the response of endothelial cells. The cells attached and spread along the hydrogel material in a manner consistent with the RGDS gradient profile. A hydrogel containing PEG-DA concentration gradient and constant RGDS concentration was also generated. The morphology of cells cultured on such hydrogel changed from round in the lower PEG-DA concentration regions to well-spread in the higher PEG-DA concentration regions. This approach is expected to be a valuable tool to investigate the cell-material interactions in a simple and high-throughput manner and to design graded biomimetic materials for tissue engineering applications.

Nanostructured Biomaterials for Regeneration

November 2008


156 Reads

Biomaterials play a pivotal role in regenerative medicine, which aims to regenerate and replace lost/dysfunctional tissues or organs. Biomaterials (scaffolds) serve as temporary 3D substrates to guide neo tissue formation and organization. It is often beneficial for a scaffolding material to mimic the characteristics of extracellular matrix (ECM) at the nanometer scale and to induce certain natural developmental or/and wound healing processes for tissue regeneration applications. This article reviews the fabrication and modification technologies for nanofibrous, nanocomposite, and nanostructured drug-delivering scaffolds. ECM-mimicking nanostructured biomaterials have been shown to actively regulate cellular responses including attachment, proliferation, differentiation and matrix deposition. Nano-scaled drug delivery systems can be successfully incorporated into a porous 3D scaffold to enhance the tissue regeneration capacity. In conclusion, nano-structured biomateials are a very exciting and rapidly expanding research area, and are providing new enabling technologies for regenerative medicine.

Design of Biomolecular Interfaces Using Liquid Crystals Containing Oligomeric Ethylene Glycol

July 2010


38 Reads

We report an investigation of nematic LCs formed from miscible mixtures of 4-cyano-4'-pentylbiphenyl (5CB) and 2-(2-[2-{2-(2,3-difluoro-4-{4-(4-trans-pentylcyclohexyl)-phenyl-phenoxy)ethoxy}ethoxy]ethoxy)ethanol (EG4-LC), the latter being a mesogen with a tetra(ethylene glycol) tail. Quantitative characterization of the ordering of this LC mixture at biologically-relevant aqueous interfaces revealed that addition of EG4-LC (1-5% by weight) to 5CB causes a continuous transition in the ordering of the LC from a planar (pure 5CB) to a perpendicular (homeotropic) orientation. The homeotropic ordering is also seen in aqueous dispersions of micrometer-sized droplets of the LC mixture, which exhibit enhanced stability against coalescence. These observations and others, all of which suggest partitioning of the EG4-LC from the bulk of the LC to its aqueous interface, were complemented by measurements of the adsorption of bovine serum albumin (BSA) to the aqueous-LC interface. Whereas adsorption of BSA to the interface of a LC mixture containing 1% wt/wt of EG4-LC triggered an ordering transition, higher concentrations of EG4-LC (>2% wt/wt) prevented this ordering transition, consistent with a decrease in adsorption of BSA. This conclusion is supported by epifluorescence measurements using fluorescently labeled BSA and comparisons to LC interfaces at which EG4-containing lipids are adsorbed. Overall, these results demonstrate a general and facile approach to the design of LCs with interfaces that present biologically relevant chemical functional groups, assume well-defined orientations at aqueous interfaces, and lower non-specific protein adsorption. The bulk of the LC serves as a reservoir of EG4-LC, thus permitting easy preparation of these interfaces and the potential for spontaneous repair of the EG4-decorated interfaces during contact with biological systems.

Ultrathin Polymeric Coatings Based on Hydrogen-Bonded Polyphenol for Protection of Pancreatic Islet Cells

August 2012


138 Reads

Though transplantation of pancreatic islet cells has emerged as a promising treatment for Type 1 diabetes its clinical application remains limited due to a number of limitations including both pathogenic innate and adaptive immune responses. We report here on a novel type of multifunctional cytoprotective material applied to coat living pancreatic islets. The coating utilizes hydrogen-bonded interactions of a natural polyphenol (tannic acid) with poly(N-vinylpyrrolidone) deposited on the islet surface via non-ionic layer-by-layer assembly. We demonstrate that the coating is conformal over the surface of mammalian islets including those derived from rat, non-human primate (NHP), and human. In contrast to unmodified controls, the coated islets maintain their viability and β-cell functionality for at least 96 hours in vitro. We also determine that the coating demonstrates immunomodulatory cytoprotective properties suppressing pro-inflammatory cytokine synthesis in stimulated bone marrow-derived macrophages and diabetogenic BDC-2.5 T cells. The coating material combines high chemical stability under physiologically relevant conditions with capability of suppressing cytokine synthesis, crucial parameters for prolonged islet integrity, viability, and function in vivo. Our study offers new opportunities in the area of advanced multifunctional materials to be used for a cell-based transplantation therapy.

Highly Elastic Micropatterned Hydrogel for Engineering Functional Cardiac Tissue

October 2013


492 Reads

Heart failure is a major international health issue. Myocardial mass loss and lack of contractility are precursors to heart failure. Surgical demand for effective myocardial repair is tempered by a paucity of appropriate biological materials. These materials should conveniently replicate natural human tissue components, convey persistent elasticity, promote cell attachment, growth and conformability to direct cell orientation and functional performance. Here, microfabrication techniques are applied to recombinant human tropoelastin, the resilience-imparting protein found in all elastic human tissues, to generate photocrosslinked biological materials containing well-defined micropatterns. These highly elastic substrates are then used to engineer biomimetic cardiac tissue constructs. The micropatterned hydrogels, produced through photocrosslinking of methacrylated tropoelastin (MeTro), promote the attachment, spreading, alignment, function, and intercellular communication of cardiomyocytes by providing an elastic mechanical support that mimics their dynamic mechanical properties in vivo. The fabricated MeTro hydrogels also support the synchronous beating of cardiomyocytes in response to electrical field stimulation. These novel engineered micropatterned elastic gels are designed to be amenable to 3D modular assembly and establish a versatile, adaptable foundation for the modeling and regeneration of functional cardiac tissue with potential for application to other elastic tissues.

pH-Based Regulation of Hydrogel Mechanical Properties Through Mussel-Inspired Chemistry and Processing

March 2013


193 Reads

The mechanical holdfast of the mussel, the byssus, is processed at acidic pH yet functions at alkaline pH. Byssi are enriched in Fe3+ and catechol-containing proteins, species with chemical interactions that vary widely over the pH range of byssal processing. Currently, the link between pH, Fe3+-catechol reactions, and mechanical function are poorly understood. Herein, we describe how pH influences the mechanical performance of materials formed by reacting synthetic catechol polymers with Fe3+. Processing Fe3+-catechol polymer materials through a mussel-mimetic acidic-to-alkaline pH change leads to mechanically tough materials based on a covalent network fortified by sacrificial Fe3+-catechol coordination bonds. Our findings offer the first direct evidence of Fe3+-induced covalent cross-linking of catechol polymers, reveal additional insight into the pH dependence and mechanical role of Fe3+- catechol interactions in mussel byssi, and illustrate the wide range of physical properties accessible in synthetic materials through mimicry of mussel protein chemistry and processing.

Porous Polymer Coatings: a Versatile Approach to Superhydrophobic Surfaces

June 2009


329 Reads

We present a facile and inexpensive approach to superhydrophobic polymer coatings. The method involves the in-situ polymerization of common monomers in the presence of a porogenic solvent to afford superhydrophobic surfaces with the desired combination of micro- and nano-scale roughness. The method is applicable to a variety of substrates and is not limited to small areas or flat surfaces. The polymerized material can be ground into a superhydrophobic powder, which, once applied to a surface, renders it superhydrophobic. The morphology of the porous polymer structure can be efficiently controlled by composition of the polymerization mixture, while surface chemistry can be adjusted by photografting. Morphology control is used to reduce the globule size of the porous architecture from micro down to nanoscale thereby affording a transparent material. The influence of both surface chemistry as well as the length scale of surface roughness on the superhydrophobicity is discussed.

Integration of a Chemical-Responsive Hydrogel into a Porous Silicon Photonic Sensor for Visual Colorimetric Readout

February 2010


53 Reads

The incorporation of a chemo-responsive hydrogel into a 1D photonic porous silicon (PSi) transducer is demonstrated. A versatile hydrogel backbone is designed via the synthesis of an amine-functionalized polyacrylamide copolymer where further amine-specific biochemical reactions can enable control of cross-links between copolymer chains based on complementary target-probe systems. As an initial demonstration, the incorporation of disulfide chemistry to control cross-linking of this hydrogel system within a PSi Bragg mirror sensor is reported. Direct optical monitoring of a characteristic peak in the white light reflectivity spectrum of the incorporated PSi Bragg mirror facilitates real-time detection of the hydrogel dissolution in response to the target analyte (reducing agent) over a timescale of minutes. The hybrid sensor response characteristics are shown to systematically depend on hydrogel cross-linking density and applied target analyte concentration. Additionally, effects due to responsive hydrogel confinement in a porous template are shown to depend on pore size and architecture of the PSi transducer substrate. Sufficient copolymer and water is removed from the PSi transducer upon dissolution and drying of the hydrogel to induce color changes that can be detected by the unaided eye. This highlights the potential for future development for point-of-care diagnostic biosensing.

Conductive Core-Sheath Nanofibers and Their Potential Application in Neural Tissue Engineering

July 2009


110 Reads

We have prepared conductive core-sheath nanofibers via a combination of electrospinning and aqueous polymerization. Specifically, nanofibers electrospun from poly(ε-caprolactone) (PCL) and poly((L)-lactide) (PLA) were employed as templates to generate uniform sheaths of polypyrrole (PPy) via in situ polymerization. These conductive core-sheath nanofibers offer a unique system for studying the synergistic effect of different cues on neurite outgrowth in vitro. We found that explanted dorsal root ganglia (DRG) adhered well to the conductive core-sheath nanofibers and generated neurites across the surface when there was a nerve growth factor in the medium. Furthermore, the neurites could be oriented along one direction and enhanced by 82% in terms of maximum length when uniaxially aligned conductive core-sheath nanofibers are compared with their random counterparts. Electrical stimulation, when applied through the mats of conductive core-sheath nanofibers, was found to further increase the maximum length of neurite for random and aligned samples by 83% and 47%, respectively, relative to the controls without electrical stimulation. Combined together, these results suggest the potential use of the conductive core-sheath nanofibers as scaffolds in applications such as neural tissue engineering.

Controllable Soluble Protein Concentration Gradients in Hydrogel Networks

November 2008


19 Reads

Here we report controlled formation of sustained, soluble protein concentration gradients within hydrated polymer networks. The approach involves spatially localizing proteins or biodegradable, protein-loaded microspheres within hydrogels to form a protein-releasing "depot". Soluble protein concentration gradients are then formed as the released protein diffuses away from the localized source. Control over key gradient parameters, including maximum concentration, gradient magnitude, slope, and time dynamics, is achieved by controlling the release of protein from the depot and subsequent transport through the hydrogel. Results demonstrate a direct relationship between the amount of protein released from the depot and the source concentration, gradient magnitude, and slope of the concentration gradient. In addition, an inverse relationship exists between the diffusion coefficient of protein within the hydrogel and the slope of the concentration gradient. The time dynamics of the concentration gradient profile can be directly correlated to protein release from the localized source, providing a mechanism for temporally controlling gradient characteristics. Therefore, each key, biologically relevant parameter associated with the protein concentration gradient can be controlled by defining protein release and diffusion. We anticipate that the resulting materials may be useful in three-dimensional cell culture systems, and in emerging tissue engineering approaches that aim to regenerate complex, functional tissues.

Critical Property in Relaxor-PbTiO3 Single Crystals - Shear Piezoelectric Response

June 2011


320 Reads

The shear piezoelectric behavior in relaxor-PbTiO(3) (PT) single crystals is investigated in regard to crystal phase. High levels of shear piezoelectric activity, d(15) or d(24) >2000 pC N(-1), has been observed for single domain rhombohedral (R), orthorhombic (O) and tetragonal (T) relaxor-PT crystals. The high piezoelectric response is attributed to a flattening of the Gibbs free energy at compositions proximate to the morphotropic phase boundaries, where the polarization rotation is easy with applying perpendicular electric field. The shear piezoelectric behavior of pervoskite ferroelectric crystals was discussed with respect to ferroelectric-ferroelectric phase transitions and dc bias field using phenomenological approach. The relationship between single domain shear piezoelectric response and piezoelectric activities in domain engineered configurations were given in this paper. From an application viewpoint, the temperature and ac field drive stability for shear piezoelectric responses are investigated. A temperature independent shear piezoelectric response (d(24), in the range of -50°C to O-T phase transition temperature) is thermodynamically expected and experimentally confirmed in orthorhombic relaxor-PT crystals; relatively high ac field drive stability (5 kV cm(-1)) is obtained in manganese modified relaxor-PT crystals. For all thickness shear vibration modes, the mechanical quality factor Qs are less than 50, corresponding to the facilitated polarization rotation.

Polyglycerol-Dendronized Perylenediimides as Stable, Water-Soluble Fluorophores

July 2012


104 Reads

The synthesis and photophysical properties of water-soluble, fluorescent polyglycerol-dendronized perylenediimides 1-4 are reported. The polyglycerol dendrons, which are known to be highly biocompatible, are found to confer high water-solubility on the perylenediimide in aqueous media while retaining its excellent fluorescent properties. Furthermore, intramolecular cross-linking of the polyglycerol dendrons using the ring-closing metathesis reaction not only enhances the photostability but also reduces the size of perylenediimide-cored dendrimers. The permeability of the various dendritic shells is probed using heavy metal ion quenchers and compared to non-dendritic but water-soluble perylenediimide 5.

Control of Nanoscale Environment to Improve Stability of Immobilized Proteins on Diamond Surfaces

March 2011


86 Reads

Immunoassays for detection of bacterial pathogens rely on the selectivity and stability of bio-recognition elements such as antibodies tethered to sensor surfaces. The search for novel surfaces that improve the stability of biomolecules and assay performance has been pursued for a long time. However, the anticipated improvements in stability have not been realized in practice under physiological conditions because the surface functionalization layers on commonly used substrates, silica and gold, are themselves unstable on time scales of days. In this paper, we show that covalent linking of antibodies to diamond surfaces leads to substantial improvements in biological activity of proteins as measured by the ability to selectively capture cells of the pathogenic bacterium Escherichia coli O157:H7 even after exposure to buffer solutions at 37 °C for extended periods of time, approaching 2 weeks. Our results from ELISA, XPS, fluorescence microscopy, and MD simulations suggest that by using highly stable surface chemistry and controlling the nanoscale organization of the antibodies on the surface, it is possible to achieve significant improvements in biological activity and stability. Our findings can be easily extended to functionalization of micro and nanodimensional sensors and structures of biomedical diagnostic and therapeutic interest.

Encapsulating Elastically Stretchable Neural Interfaces: Yield, Resolution, and Recording/Stimulation of Neural Activity

February 2012


49 Reads

A high resolution elastically stretchable microelectrode array (SMEA) to interface with neural tissue is described. The SMEA consists of an elastomeric substrate, such as poly(dimethylsiloxane) (PDMS), elastically stretchable gold conductors, and an electrically insulating encapsulating layer in which contact holes are opened. We demonstrate the feasibility of producing contact holes with 40 µm × 40 µm openings, show why the adhesion of the encapsulation layer to the underlying silicone substrate is weakened during contact hole fabrication, and provide remedies. These improvements result in greatly increased fabrication yield and reproducibility. An SMEA with 28 microelectrodes was fabricated. The contact holes (100 µm × 100 µm) in the encapsulation layer are only ~10% the size of the previous generation, allowing a larger number of microelectrodes per unit area, thus affording the capability to interface with a smaller neural population per electrode. This new SMEA is used to record spontaneous and evoked activity in organotypic hippocampal tissue slices at 0% strain before stretching, at 5 % and 10 % equibiaxial strain, and again at 0% strain after relaxation. The noise of the recordings increases with increasing strain. The frequency of spontaneous neural activity also increases when the SMEA is stretched. Upon relaxation, the noise returns to pre-stretch levels, while the frequency of neural activity remains elevated. Stimulus-response curves at each strain level are measured. The SMEA shows excellent biocompatibility for at least two weeks.

Microfabricated Porous Silk Scaffolds for Vascularizing Engineered Tissues

July 2013


72 Reads

There is critical clinical demand for tissue-engineered (TE), three-dimensional (3D) constructs for tissue repair and organ replacements. Current efforts toward this goal are prone to necrosis at the core of larger constructs because of limited oxygen and nutrient diffusion. Therefore, critically sized 3D TE constructs demand an immediate vascular system for sustained tissue function upon implantation. To address this challenge the goal of this project was to develop a strategy to incorporate microchannels into a porous silk TE scaffold that could be fabricated reproducibly using microfabrication and soft lithography. Silk is a suitable biopolymer material for this application because it is mechanically robust, biocompatible, slowly degrades in vivo, and has been used in a variety of TE constructs. We report the fabrication of a silk-based TE scaffold that contains an embedded network of porous microchannels. Enclosed porous microchannels support endothelial lumen formation, a critical step toward development of the vascular niche, while the porous scaffold surrounding the microchannels supports tissue formation, demonstrated using human mesenchymal stem cells. This approach for fabricating vascularized TE constructs is advantageous compared to previous systems, which lack porosity and biodegradability or degrade too rapidly to sustain tissue structure and function. The broader impact of this research will enable the systemic study and development of complex, critically-sized engineered tissues, from regenerative medicine to in vitro tissue models of disease states.

Thickness-Dependent Properties of Relaxor-PbTiO3 Ferroelectrics for Ultrasonic Transducers

September 2010


144 Reads

The electrical properties of Pb(Mg(1/3)Nb(2/3))O(3)-PbTiO(3) (PMN-PT) based polycrystalline ceramics and single crystals were investigated as a function of scale ranging from 500 microns to 30 microns. Fine-grained PMN-PT ceramics exhibited comparable dielectric and piezoelectric properties to their coarse-grained counterpart in the low frequency range (<10 MHz), but offered greater mechanical strength and improved property stability with decreasing thickness, corresponding to higher operating frequencies (>40 MHz). For PMN-PT single crystals, however, the dielectric and electromechanical properties degraded with decreasing thickness, while ternary Pb(In(1/2)Nb(1/2))O(3)-Pb(Mg(1/3)Nb(2/3))O(3)-PbTiO(3) (PIN-PMN-PT) exhibited minimal size dependent behavior. The origin of property degradation of PMN-PT crystals was further studied by investigating the dielectric permittivity at high temperatures, and domain observations using optical polarized light microscopy. The results demonstrated that the thickness dependent properties of relaxor-PT ferroelectrics are closely related to the domain size with respect to the associated macroscopic scale of the samples.

Figure 2: Monocultures of vascular cells embedded in GelMA. a,b) Monocultures containing either ECFCs (a) or MSCs (b) were evaluated for cell number at 2, 4 and 6 d using GelMA hydrogels with different methacrylation degrees. c–h) Representative confocal microscopy images of embedded DsRed-ECFCs (c–e) and CMFDA-labeled MSCs (f–h) after day 6 in monoculture for each methacrylation degree. The insets show images taken at higher magnification. The data are presented as the mean ± SD. *: p < 0.1, **: p < 0.01, ***: p < 0.001, compared with the 10M GelMA.
Figure 3: Co-culture of vascular cells in GelMA. Constructs containing both DsRed-ECFCs and CMFDA-labeled MSCs were cultured for 2, 4 and 6 d using GelMA hydrogels with different methacrylation degrees. a,b) Numbers of DsRed-ECFCs (a) and CMFDA-MSCs (b) were separately counted at each time point under a fluorescence microscope. c–h) Representative confocal microscopy images of DsRed-ECFCs (c–e) and CMFDA-MSCs (f–h) after day 6 in co-culture for each methacrylation degree. The data are presented as the mean ± SD. *: p < 0.1, **: p < 0.01, ***: p < 0.001, compared with the 10M GelMA.
Figure 4: Extent of capillary-like network formation. Constructs containing both DsRed-ECFCs and CMFDA-labeled MSCs were cultured in the GelMA hydrogels with different methacrylation degrees. The DsRed-ECFCs were imaged in whole-mount constructs using confocal microscopy at day 6. a–c) Representative 2D projections (x – y plane) of images collected along the z -axis of the constructs. d–f) Representative 3D reconstruction of constructs from confocal microscopy images: z -plane cross-sections covering a thickness of 400 μm are in the direction of the white arrows. A representative video of a rotating 3D reconstruction of the confocal images showing interconnected vascular networks is available (Video 1, Supporting Information) g–j) Quantitative analysis of the extent of capillary-like network formation after 2, 4 and 6 d in vitro was carried out by measuring total capillary-like length per unit of area (g), the average length of capillaries (h), the number of branch points per unit of area (i) and the number of branches per unit of area (j). The data are presented as the mean ± SD. *: p < 0.1, **: p < 0.01, ***: p < 0.001, compared with the 10M GelMA.
Figure 5: Stabilization of the ECFC-lined capillaries by perivascular cells. Constructs containing both DsRed-ECFCs and MSCs were cultured for 7 d in GelMA hydrogels with different methacrylation degrees. The ability of the MSCs to differentiate into perivascular cells was analyzed by confocal microscopy after immunoflourescence staining with antibodies against smooth muscle markers. a,c) Representative confocal images showing the spatial distribution of the DsRed-ECFC-lined capillaries surrounded by αSMA-expressing MSCs. Higher magnification images depicting details of a capillary (top) and a cross-section image taken in the direction of the white arrows (bottom) are shown to the right of the these images in panels (a) and (c). b,d) Representative confocal images showing the spatial distribution of both DsRed-ECFC-lined capillaries surrounded by sm-MHC-expressing MSCs. A representative video of a rotating 3D reconstruction of confocal images showing MSC-wrapped capillaries is available (Video 2, Supporting Information).
Functional Human Vascular Network Generated in Photocrosslinkable Gelatin Methacrylate Hydrogels

May 2012


774 Reads

The generation of functional, 3D vascular networks is a fundamental prerequisite for the development of many future tissue engineering-based therapies. Current approaches in vascular network bioengineering are largely carried out using natural hydrogels as embedding scaffolds. However, most natural hydrogels present a poor mechanical stability and a suboptimal durability, which are critical limitations that hamper their widespread applicability. The search for improved hydrogels has become a priority in tissue engineering research. Here, the suitability of a photopolymerizable gelatin methacrylate (GelMA) hydrogel to support human progenitor cell-based formation of vascular networks is demonstrated. Using GelMA as the embedding scaffold, it is shown that 3D constructs containing human blood-derived endothelial colony-forming cells (ECFCs) and bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) generate extensive capillary-like networks in vitro. These vascular structures contain distinct lumens that are formed by the fusion of ECFC intracellular vacuoles in a process of vascular morphogenesis. The process of vascular network formation is dependent on the presence of MSCs, which differentiate into perivascular cells occupying abluminal positions within the network. Importantly, it is shown that implantation of cell-laden GelMA hydrogels into immunodeficient mice results in a rapid formation of functional anastomoses between the bioengineered human vascular network and the mouse vasculature. Furthermore, it is shown that the degree of methacrylation of the GelMA can be used to modulate the cellular behavior and the extent of vascular network formation both in vitro and in vivo. These data suggest that GelMA hydrogels can be used for biomedical applications that require the formation of microvascular networks, including the development of complex engineered tissues.

Wavelength-Selective Light-Induced Release from Plasmon Resonant Liposomes

March 2011


55 Reads

Biodegradable, spectrally tunable plasmon resonant nanocapsules are created via the deposition of gold onto the surface of 100 nm diameter thermosensitive liposomes. These nanocapsules demonstrate selective release of encapsulated contents upon illumination with light of a wavelength matching their distinct resonance bands, which correspond to 760 and 1210 nm in this study. Spectrally selective release is accomplished through the use of multiple, low intensity laser pulses delivered over a period of less than four minutes, ensuring that illumination affects only the gold-coated liposomes and avoids heating the surrounding media. The result of this illumination scheme for selective release using multiple wavelengths of light is a biologically safe mechanism for realizing drug delivery, microfluidic, and sensor applications.

Phosphorene: Giant Phononic Anisotropy and Unusual Anharmonicity of Phosphorene: Interlayer Coupling and Strain Engineering (Adv. Funct. Mater. 15/2015)

February 2015


314 Reads

Phosphorene, an emerging elemental two-dimensional (2D) direct band gap semiconductor with fascinating structural and electronic properties distinctively different from other 2D materials such as graphene and MoS2, is promising for novel nanoelectronic and optoelectronic applications. Phonons, as one of the most important collective excitations, are at the heart for the device performance, as their interactions with electrons and photons govern the carrier mobility and light-emitting efficiency of the material. Here, through a detailed first-principles study, it is demonstrated that monolayer phosphorene exhibits a giant phononic anisotropy, and remarkably, this anisotropy is squarely opposite to its electronic counterpart and can be tuned effectively by strain engineering. By sampling the whole Brillouin zone for the mono-layer phosphorene, several "hidden" directions are found, along which small-momentum phonons are "frozen" with strain and possess the smallest degree of anharmonicity. Unexpectedly, these "hidden" directions are intrinsically different from those usually studied armchair and zigzag directions. Light is also shed on the anisotropy of interlayer coupling of few-layer phosphorene by examining the rigid-layer vibrations. These highly anisotropic and strain-tunable characteristics of phosphorene offer new possibilities for its applications in thermal management, thermoelectronics, nanoelectronics and phononics.

Colossal Thermoelectric Power Factor in K$_{7/8}$RhO$_2$

July 2012


180 Reads

We discuss the thermoelectric and optical properties of layered K$_{x}$RhO$_{2}$ (\emph{x} = 1/2 and 7/8) in terms of the electronic structure determined by first principles calculations as well as Boltzmann transport theory. Our optimized lattice constants differ significantly from the experiment, but result in optical and transport properties close to the experiment. The main contribution to the optical spectra are due to intra and inter-band transitions between the Rh 4\emph{d} and O 2\emph{p} states. We find a similar power factor for pristine K$_{x}$RhO$_{2}$ at low and high cation concentartions. Our transport results of hydrated K$_{x}$RhO$_{2}$ at room temperature show highest value of the power factor among the hole-type materials. Specially at 100 K, we obtain a value of 3$\times$10$^{-3}$ K$^{-1}$ for K$_{7/8}$RhO$_{2}$, which is larger than that of Na$_{0.88}$CoO$_{2}$ {[}M. Lee \emph{et al}., Nat. Mater. 5, 537 (2006){]}. In general, the electronic and optical properties of K$_{x}$RhO$_{2}$ are similar to Na$_{x}$CoO$_{2}$ with enhanced transport properties in the hydrated phase.

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