Chemical and Biochemical EngineeringWestern Engineering

Research Interests

The research theme in the Mequanint Lab is in the areas of polymeric biomaterials, tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. Our earlier studies focused on polyurethane-derived biomaterials but it evolved to include hydrogels, biodegradable poly(ester amide)s, and polyphosphazenes. In addition to these, the lab has active research in the utility of naturally-occurring gels and radiation tracer molecules (tetrazolium derivatives) as radiation dosimeter for quality assurance of cancer treatment. 

Current Research Interests

(1) Development of biodegradable biomaterials and scaffolds for tissue engineering

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. 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.

(2) Cell interaction and signaling in 3D scaffolds

Tissue engineering scaffolds are extracellular matrix surrogates. As such, how cells (primary, progenitor, stem) interact and initiate molecular signaling leading to the desired tissue formation process is an important aspect of tissue engineering. Our lab is actively working on cell signaling on synthetic matrices with the aim of elucidating molecular events. 

(3) Biomolecule delivery strategies

In tissue engineering and regenerative medicine strategies, providing cells with appropriate biological cues is needed. These cues are often provided by multiple growth factors. The delivery of these growth factors both spatially and and temporally is an area of current active research in our lab.  

(4) Non-diffusing radiotherapy hydrogel dosimeters

The goal of radiation therapy is to deliver a highly localized lethal dose of ionizing radiation to tumors while sparing the surrounding healthy tissue. Despite rapid advances in the technology to deliver 3D radiation treatments, efficient measurement of dose distributions in 3D has not been achieved and poses an immediate and substantial problem for quality assurance. Our lab is actively working to develop novel radiochromic 3D gel dosimeter that efficiently measures the delivered dose distribution for single or cumulative radiation exposure. Our focus is on naturally-derived hydrogel materials and tetrazolium-based radiation sensing strategy.