Mequanint Lab - Research Interests
The major research theme in Dr. Mequanint's group is Cardiovascular Tissue Engineering. Our main expertise involves designing of polymer systems for a variety of industrial and biomedical applications. His current investigations focus on the following:
(1) Development of interactive biodegradable biomaterials. Tissue engineering is an emerging discipline with a goal to regenerate diseased tissues and organs by applying concepts of materials design, engineering, and life sciences to study the biological processes associated with the development of tissues. Thus the design of suitable biomaterials for scaffolding is at the heart of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine research. In order to achieve successful regeneration of damaged tissues based on the tissue engineering approach, we are designing advanced natural and synthetic biodegradable biomaterials with controlled biomechanical and structural details. These biomaterials will further be imprinted with biological signals for fabricating tissue-engineered arteries.
(2) New 3D scaffold fabrication methods. One requirement in tissue engineering strategy is the fabrication of porous 3-dimensional scaffolds from interactive biomaterials onto which cells can attach, proliferate, migrate and function. As most tubular scaffold fabrication techniques for vascular tissue engineering use organic solvents that require extensive post-processing treatments, our Lab is exploring solvent free methods to obtain high porosity and interconnected pores.
(3) Vascular cells interaction with 3D scaffolds. The adhesion of cells to the scaffold is the first event in tissue engineering. Subsequent cellular events such as phenotypic expression, differentiation, and ECM secretion depend on this critical event. In this area we are focusing on understanding the interactions between cells and scaffolds that modulate cellular functions such as adhesion, migration, proliferation, differentiation and extracellular matrix remodeling for the repair of cardiovascular injuries.
(4) Mass transfer studies in Tissue Engineering. The approach of tissue engineering constitutes an important engineering challenge because of the difficulty to grow cells in high density, due to mass transfer limitations (delivery of nutrients removal of metabolic waste products). The major mass transfer challenge in tissue engineering arises from the inability to deliver sufficient oxygen. As a result, tissue engineered constructs frequently have an inhomogeneous structure consisting of a dense layer of cells and extracellular matrix concentrated along the periphery, and a necrotic interior region. Such an inhomogeneous structure may limit the initial mechanical functionality and subsequent in vivo function of grafts of clinically relevant size. We are currently working on addressing this issue in a novel way. Our ultimate goal is to develop cardiovascular tissue substitutes using novel biomaterial scaffolds that incorporate vascular cells and extracellular matrix proteins in a state-of-the-art bioreactor.
Other areas of research interest include the industrial application of polyurethane dispersions that are environmentally safe for coating a variety of surfaces.
KEYWORDS: vascular tissue engineering; biomaterials; scaffold fabrications; cell-material interaction; polyurethanes; bioreactor; extracellular matrix proteins, mass transfer.