Biomaterials are traditionally defined as materials that are intended to interact with biological systems, and a number of metals, ceramics, and polymers have been developed over the years as biomaterials for use in medical devices or implants. However, new challenges in application areas such as the regeneration of damaged tissue and organs, the precise delivery of therapeutics, and the creation of in vitro systems for cell expansion and disease modeling have spurred research into the development of novel biomaterials. For example, the main premise of the tissue engineering approach is to combine cells, biomaterials, and biological factors to lead to tissue regeneration. While naturally derived materials have been widely investigated in tissue engineering as scaffolds for cells, synthetic polymer-based materials offer greater control of the mechanical and chemical properties of the scaffold and thus have a high potential for clinical translation. However, synthetic materials often lack key features, such as the bioactive functional groups and the nanofibrillar morphology of the native extracellular matrix, which are required for cell attachment, migration, and differentiation. Therefore, my research has focused on developing innovative biomimetic and responsive biomaterials, in particular hydrogels. In the first part of the talk, novel materials providing biomimetic signals for modulating the behavior of cells will be discussed. These include hybrid hydrogels combining chemical crosslinking to allow tuning of hydrogel mechanical properties with self-assembly to form nanofibers as well as novel low molecular weight hydrogelators that display interesting injectable and mechanical properties. In the second part of the talk, the combination of modular hydrogel materials with progenitor cells to create tissue-engineered constructs for different applications will be presented. A main focus is on bone and cartilage regeneration, using in vitro preconditioning to mature the tissue-engineered constructs. Additional work has looked toward cornea repair as well as to the use of nanomaterials and microfabrication technologies to create more sophisticated scaffold designs.
Bio: Jennifer Patterson is Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) of BIOFABICS in Portugal and is registered as an independent consultant in Belgium. Previously, she was an assistant professor in the Department of Materials Engineering at the KU Leuven. She received a BSE in Chemical Engineering from Princeton University and a PhD in Bioengineering from the University of Washington, and she was a post-doctoral fellow at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland. Her research interests are in the areas of biomaterials and tissue engineering, with a focus on the development of materials systems for the controlled spatial and temporal presentation of bioactive signals to stimulate tissue regeneration.