University of Wisconsin-Madison

 

Human umbilical vein endothelial cell (HUVEC) tubule morphogenesis (left) or monolayer formation (right) determined by hydrogel stiffness and adhesion ligand density.

Image provided by Eric H. Nguyen.

 

Research

Our research focuses on designing and synthesizing “bioinspired” materials, including soft organic materials like hydrogels and hard inorganic materials like biominerals. Two primary goals characterize the research in our group. The first is to create biomaterials that enable new, fundamental discoveries in stem cell biology. We control the microenvironment surrounding stem cells and study how this “microenvironment” changes their behavior. The second is to create innovative medical devices that can solve underserved clinical needs. Here we work with clinicians and companies to identify significant challenges and opportunities for innovation, and then create materials to address these challenges. We are particularly focused on developing biomaterials that can be translated from concept to clinic. To achieve our goals we have engaged in research that addresses bottlenecks in fields that include stem cell bioprocessing, biomanufacturing, drug delivery, gene delivery, drug screening, and tissue engineering. 

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Understanding the stem cell microenvironment

Development of materials that control the stem cell microenvironment and ask specific questions about how stem cells are influenced by biological molecules, mechanical stiffness, and the proximity of other cells. 

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Manipulating the stem cell microenvironment

Chemically well-defined cell culture environments used to develop ECM-mimicking (or “bioinspired”) ligands that influence stem cell behavior.

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Inducing tissue regeneration

Development of a series of strategies to deliver growth factors and stem cells from medical devices with a primarily focus on regenerating musculoskeletal tissues and vascular tissue.