(6du) Design of Injectable Hydrogels for Regenerative Medicine

Authors: 
Heilshorn, S. C., Stanford University
Cai, L., Stanford University

Stem cell-based therapy is emerging as a viable method to treat various injuries and degenerative diseases. However, stem cell delivery via direct injection results in poor cell survival (typically <5%) due to lack of mechanical protection during injection and lack of biochemical cues post-injection. I have designed highly tunable three-dimensional (3D) hydrogels using building blocks of multivalent protein-polymers to enhance cell survival throughout the injection process and to offer long-term mechanical and biochemical support post-injection. These biomaterials are used both as in vitro platforms to study fundamental questions about three-dimensional matrix-cell interactions and as clinical therapies to enhance cell transplantation efficiency and achieve neurovascular regeneration. As a principal investigator, I intend to initiate a multidisciplinary research program combining my expertise in materials design, protein engineering, polymer chemistry, and neural and vascular cell biology for treating neurovascular diseases. My scientific training in these multidisciplinary fields uniquely positions me to synergistically combine peptide and protein motifs with synthetic macromolecules to create new hydrogel systems for understanding cell-biomaterial interactions in vitro and addressing therapeutic needs in vivo. This program will focus on 1) the design of injectable stem cell niches for drug and cell delivery therapies and 2) the investigation of how niche properties influence cellular function and promote neurovascular tissue regeneration.