Research at the Segura Lab
Although it has been known for sometime that cells behave differently when cultured outside the body, most of the information known about cells was, and still is, collected when cells are cultured on two-dimensional surfaces. In order to get closer to the in vivo setting, three-dimensional culture systems, such as hydrogels, that can control several aspects of the cell microenvironment have been proposed as alternatives for the study of cell function in vitro and guide regeneration in vivo. Hydrogels are cross-linked polymeric networks that swell in the presence of water and result in structures that contain more than 90 % water. Hydrogels can be engineered to be as soft as brain tissue or as hard as bone tissue, which makes them ideal to study stem cell differentiation and survival in vitro and guide tissue regeneration in vivo. The long-term goal of my research is to design and engineer hydrogel based biomaterials that contain biological signals that (i) can enhance the wound healing rate of hard to treat wounds (e.g. ischemic wounds), (ii) can be used to transplant stem cells to diseased sites, and (iii) can be used to study stem cell differentiation in vitro. Current projects focus on the introduction of gene, protein and peptide based bioactive signals into hydrogel scaffolds and the culture of adult stem cells inside these hydrogel materials.