Microstructured hydrogels via phase separation of elastomeric polypeptides
Inspired by the outstanding mechanical properties of natural resilin, we have engineered a library of uniquely thermoresponsive resilin-like polypeptides (RLPs) for applications in regenerative medicine. Through the introduction of specific biomimetic amino acid sequences, the RLPs are endowed with proteolytic, cell binding, and heparin sequestration properties that mimic the function of natural tissues. These RLPs can be cross-linked through small-molecule cross-linkers, as well as PEG macromers, utilizing a variety of different chemistries. Our RLP hydrogels have been shown to be highly resilient and cytocompatible. Currently, we are investigating these materials for cell-based therapies in gastrointestinal and cardiovascular areas.

Thiol-sensitive hydrogels
Hydrogels that contain nanoparticles, composed of hydrophilic polymers that are lightly cross-linked, have a high degree of porosity that allows encapsulation of therapeutics and also high water content that contributes to biocompatibility. In this project, we are producing both bulk PEG-based hydrogels, microgels, and hydrogels that contain nanoparticles. These hydrogels are formed via thiol-maleimide Michael-type addition reactions and can be degraded in the presence of thiols owing to the reversibility of the specific chemical linkages employed. By taking advantage of the surface versatility of the hydrogel nanoparticles and the reversibility of engineered Michael-type adducts pioneered in our group, the materials represent very promising carriers for targeted therapeutics for cardiovascular applications.