Biomaterials and Medical Devices
Biomaterials are the foundation of many technologies and products in healthcare and related fields. At Virginia Tech, teams of faculty, students and other investigators study problems and develop solutions to challenges that confront the use of many types of materials in biologic systems. Cross-disciplinary research is directed toward materials chemistry, medical devices, diagnostic technologies and products, drug development and delivery, prosthetics and robotics, tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, and nanoscience. Many labs offer opportunities for undergraduate research through research course credits, summer programs, and volunteer student scientist positions. Graduate and undergraduate courses prepare students to conduct independent and team-based research projects involving biomaterials. VT initiatives in neuroscience, medical device-biologic interfaces, nanomedicine, and translational cancer research, combined with colleges of both human and veterinary medicine, provide a vibrant community of fundamental science and entrepreneurial activity.
The Micro/NanoScale Biotic/Abiotic Systems Engineering Laboratory research interest is in experimental and theoretical investigation of phenomena at the interface of biological and synthetic systems (or bio-hybrid engineering) at the micro and nanoscale. Current research activities can be divided into two broad categories: (1) Developing bio-hybrid engineered systems in which biological components are utilized for actuation, sensing, communication, and control (e.g. bacteria-enabled autonomous drug delivery systems for cancer therapy) (2) Studying mechanism of adhesion, motility and sensing in mammalian cells and unicellular microorganisms (e.g. effect of surface nanotopography on fungal biofilm formation).
Our lab’s focus is on advancing micro- and nanotechnologies towards translational applications. This is pursued in two central directions. First, we develop novel measurement strategies using the solid-state nanopore platform: a fabricated nanodevice capable of probing individual biomolecules electrically. With this, we are able to detect a range of biomarkers of disease, including target nucleic acid sequences, epigenetic modifications, and agents of autoimmune disorders like Celiac’s disease. Second, we combine 3D cell culture techniques with microfluidic delivery systems. Here, we are uncovering the biology of cancer progression and metastasis, and building towards patient-specific drug screening.
Bioartificial pancreas- Development of procedures and devices for encapsulated islets: Areas of investigation include: biomaterials for cell encapsulation, scale up devices.
Regeneration of pancreatic β-cell in autoimmune diabetes: We are developing reliable and safe techniques for localized delivery of therapeutic immunomodulatory molecules in the autoimmune diabetic pancreas.
Bioengineering of endocrine pancreatic tissue: We decellularize human or porcine pancreas and use the pancreatic scaffold generated to engineer new islet tissues.
Bioartificial Ovary - Cell-Based Hormone Therapy: This essentially is an engineered ovary to deliver sex hormones in a more natural manner than drugs. Donor ovarian cells are “encapsulated” based on the natural architecture of the follicle.
Mark Van Dyke
New keratin nanomaterials are being applied as biomaterials to bone regeneration, cell delivery and coatings for advanced prosthetics. We are studying the solution and self-assembly behavior of these nanomaterials to better understand network formation and the fabrication of hydrogels, scaffolds, microparticles, and biomimetic coatings.