Tremendous advancements have been made over the past several decades in the development of new therapeutics to treat disease. In addition, researchers now understand how to induce stem cells to differentiate into many different cell types for potential regenerative therapies. However, many challenges still need to be addressed. For example, many drug molecules have undesirable side effects due to their systemic distribution and lack of specificity for their target.
There are still many gaps in the understanding of how to apply cell-based therapies and to achieve high cell retention and integration. Macromolecules can be used to address many of these challenges. For example, drugs can be packaged into polymeric drug delivery systems to protect them, increase their dispersion in water, and deliver them more selectively to their sites of action. In addition, polymeric can serve as temporary scaffolds to support the growth of cells and to control their behaviour in regenerative medicine applications.
Our research group is developing new polymeric platforms for applications in drug delivery and tissue engineering. We design and synthesize polymers with novel functions such as triggered degradation or the presentation of bioactive molecules and use these polymers to fabricate materials ranging from nanoparticles to coatings and 3-D scaffolds. We are working with collaborators across the faculties of Science, Engineering, and Medicine to apply these materials to challenges in the areas including musculoskeletal health, cancer, and immunology/microbiology.
Students in our group have the opportunity to gain experience in the synthesis of small molecules and polymers and in their characterization using a wide range of techniques such as NMR spectroscopy, mass spectrometry, HPLC, GPC/SEC, light scattering, and imaging methods such as SEM and TEM. To test the utility of our new systems, students will also be encouraged to participate in biological experiments.