BME 7900: "Designing Smart Biomaterials Systems for Biomedical Engineering and Systems Biology"
BME 7900 Seminar Series talk by Juana Mendenhall, Morehouse College.
Thermo-responsive materials have become of interest due to their response towards external stimuli such as temperature. In our research group, we have begun exploring one thermo-responsive material, poly(N-vinylcaprolactam) [PVCL] to address problems in such as Osteoarthritis (OA) and biofuel production. PVCL undergoes a lower critical solution temperature (LCST) which displays a tunable phase transition dependent upon the solvent used for polymerization and molecular weight. Our efforts consist of the synthesis, preparation, and characterization of PVCL homopolymers, PVCL-grafted copolymers, and electrospun PVCL fibers. Using free-radical polymerization, we have prepared end-functionalized PVCL homopolymers and grafted copolymers (containing hyaluronic acid) that form hydrogels and display a range of LCST. These temperature-responsive hydrogels will be employed as injectable gels used to treat OA via a therapeutic entity in the polymer backbone. Moreover, we have preliminary investigated the therapeutic efficacy of PVCL-based hydrogels under low oxygen conditions (hypoxia) which suggests that PVCL may serve as a vehicle to capture free radicals under hypoxic conditions. Using temperature—controlled rheology, we have concluded that the mechanical properties of PVCL and PVCL-based hydrogels are tunable per polymer concentration and molecular weight. Additionally, PVCL nanofibers have also been prepared with various size distributions and morphologies. These PVCL nanofibers when combined with cellulose show promise as novel affinity membranes towards quantifying enzyme activity and simple sugars at various temperatures. This information will be essential when producing bioethanol using microorganisms such as termites.