Synthetic Carriers for Targeted Gene Delivery
This is my most current project. It combines the research I did at Harvard with my research at LSU. This is a rapidly developing project, so please come back for more details at a later date.
Drug Delivery and Computational Modeling
For my senior design capstone project, my group and I are addressing the challenge of predicting the release profile of drugs and nanoparticles from synthetic bone scaffolds. Using detailed micro computed tomography (microCT) scans of bone scaffolds in concert with computational fluid dynamics, we are developing a predictive model that can be used by surgeons to design treatments for individual patients. To confirm the accuracy of our computer model, we are designing an experimental system that allows for continuous monitoring of release from scaffolds in vitro. This work plays a role in the development of a mature, clinically relevant tissue engineering platform.
During the summer of 2013, I worked at Harvard with a group who developed a method to create synthetic protein membranes on oil – water interfaces. These protein droplets show a number of distinct advantages over systems based on solid particles. We demonstrated that these proteins are uniformly coated on the interface, maintain their activity, and are able to move within the membrane. This technology is widely applicable in biotechnology and addresses some of the problems inherent to protein beads or protein nanoparticles. We are currently studying these protein droplets as a synthetic cell mimic for the study of apoptosis. This could drastically lower the cost barrier of entry to cancer research.
Photoactivated Gene Delivery
One of the most challenging problems in the field of tissue engineering is how to create a synthetic environment that is functionally equivalent to native tissue. Even in a simple system like bone, this requires the spatially controlled differentiation of stem cells into bone and blood vessels. My laboratory at LSU is currently developing a nanoparticle-based technology that uses microRNA to provide light activated differentiation cues to stem cells growing within a tissue scaffold. The ultimate goal of this project is to be able to precisely control the differentiation of bone cells and blood vessels using different wavelengths of light.
Whether it is bio-fouling in a microchannel or chronic inflammation around an implanted medical device, the interface between devices and biological materials is mediated by non-specific protein adsorption. The ability to control the adsorption of proteins on the surface of a device directly influences biological response. To this end, I worked during my time at imec to develop an assay to quickly identify promising anti-fouling coatings for a variety of ongoing projects. Using the simple tools of fluorescence microscopy and water contact angle, coatings could be rapidly tested for their potential as anti-fouling coatings for microfluidic channels and implanted medical devices.
Electrospun Medical Device Coatings
The body’s extracellular matrix provides a nanofibrous architecture in which natural tissues grow. Electrospinning provides a way to mimic that native extracellular matrix and present cells with a more familiar environment at the interface between native tissue and implanted devices. For this project, I designed and built an electrospinning device and developed a technique to generate aligned arrays of nanofibers. This work won the Goldwater Scholarship for excellence in undergraduate research in 2013. Although I am now pursuing other projects, I have seen electrospinning devices very similar to mine operating in laboratories at Harvard and at UC Berkeley.