CAREER: Creation of Complex Biomimetic Materials via Molecular Recognition

Project: Research project

Project Details


This Career award by the Biomaterials program in the Division of Materials Research to University of Connecticut aims to create a new generation of tissue-like biomaterials based on novel hydrogels that are functionalized with nucleic acid aptamers for potential use of these hydrogels as synthetic mimics of extracellular matrix. Biomaterials that can recapitulate complex functions of natural tissues will not only provide a deeper insight into biological systems, but also offer a variety of applications such as tissue repair or organ regeneration. The proposed studies include synthesis and characterization of polymers and hydrogels that are functionalized with nucleic acid aptamers; study of the molecular recognition between affinity polymers and their targets at different interfaces; and investigation of the roles of aptamers and molecular triggers in regulating the release of multiple signal molecules from hydrogels. The coordination of numerous signals from the tissue-like biomaterials is expected to determine whether cells undergo proliferation, migration, differentiation, or other critical functions. The educational activities will be pursued to stimulate prospective students' passion and interests in science and engineering; encourage the students of different levels to learn both cutting-edge nanobiotechnology techniques and 21st century skill sets; and enable the broad dissemination of nanobiotechnology knowledge not only to scholars and students in the field, but also to the general public and prospective students.

Tissue loss or organ failure is one of the most challenging health problems in the biomedical field. Tissue engineering and regenerative medicine is a promising field that applies the principles of multiple disciplines together towards tissue repair or organ regeneration. However, one of the challenges in this field is the creation of novel materials that are expected to mimic the complex structures and functionality of human tissues. The proposed research is designed to develop tissue-like materials that possess multiple features including communication with human cells. These synthetic polymers with functional groups hold strong potential of stimulating tissue repair or organ regeneration. The educational outreach efforts will be coupled with diverse teaching and outreach activities such as the training of high-school students and teachers, the development and teaching of a new course, and the establishment of a popular science website for the dissemination of nanobiotechnology knowledge. The students of different levels from K-12 to graduate studies will pursue research in an encouraging and collaborative environment, learning cutting-edge nanobiotechnology and other related fields in sciences and engineering.

Effective start/end date2/1/134/30/18


  • National Science Foundation: $453,236.00


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