Mark Van Dyke, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Virginia Tech 323 Kelly Hall, Stanger Street (MC 0298) Blacksburg, VA 24061

Phone: (540) 231-0048




Nanostructured Biopolymer Engineering Lab - Mark E. Van Dyke, Ph.D. 

Biomaterials are an essential tool that provides the basis for bioengineered devices, growing and delivering cells, developing functional tissues, and engineering whole organs. Natural biopolymers that self-assemble on the nano scale have the potential to provide native cellular environments that facilitate the directed behavior of cells. Research conducted in the Nanostructured Biopolymer Engineering Lab makes use of naturally derived keratin nanomaterials for biomaterials development. Dr. Van Dyke’s research group studies the fundamental characteristics of keratin nanomaterials such as their solution behavior, self-assembly into network structures, and structure-function relationships. Keratin nanomaterials can be purified from natural fibers and when properly isolated, demonstrate several remarkable characteristics. First, keratin nanomaterials are highly biocompatible and can be used for tissue regeneration, drug delivery, and as carriers for cells; purified keratin nanomaterials contain no cellular elements so they do not elicit an immune response. Second, keratin nanomaterials have a unique capacity for molecular self-assembly that results in the spontaneous formation of network structures. Self-assembly occurs on the nanometer scale and builds to the micron scale, resulting in homogenous, porous architectures that are conducive to cell attachment and growth. Third, keratin nanomaterials contain cellular binding motifs that mimic the sites of cell attachment found in native extracellular matrix. By leveraging these unique characteristics, we are creating inexpensive biomaterials with the potential for use in a host of biomedical applications. Commercializing the results of our research is also a focus of the lab. Our current research programs are directed toward developing greater understanding of the molecular self-assembly process and keratin’s ligand-like function. We have projects that are aimed toward clinical applications such as heart regeneration, inflammation, and bone repair.