PITA Fiscal Year 2007 Projects

Nanotechnology

Cellular interfaces with composite materials of Single Wall Carbon Nanotubes in a polymer matrix for use in tissue engineering and for fundamental cell discovery
The aim of this proposal is to investigate cell adhesion, migration, morphology, differentiation and incorporation as the stiffness of the artificial matrix outside the cell is modified. We are developing unique composite materials with embedded Single Wall Carbon Nantotubes (SWCNT) for cell biology applications including bone tissue engineering and fundamental cell biology discovery. Current materials for bone tissue engineering are either ceramic based, which are rigid but not porous for cellular ingrowth, or flexible polymers, which support cellular remodeling but cannot support large-scale strain. Composite materials with SWCNT are porous and flexible enough for cell ingrowth but stiff enough to stabilize regions normally stabilized with bone. We can modify the stiffness and the alignment of these SWCNT polymer composite systems globally by changing polymer or nanotube concentration to develop better tissue engineered constructs. In addition, we can locally tune the stiffness and alignment of the composites to determine how cells are able to sense stiffness changes in their extracellular environment at extremely small length scales.

We are requesting seed money for initial studies, described here, which will first examine cellular toxicity, morphology and adhesion of cells with these composite materials. We will then perform more sophisticated studies for bone tissue engineering with these materials, such as examining cellular markers associated with bone cell differentiation and cell incorporation into thicker materials. Also, we will design a system to locally tune material stiffness using temperature sensitive polymers to determine fundamental cellular properties as cells interact with extracellular matrix. This combination of tissue engineering application and fundamental biophysical science makes this system unique, valuable and highly fundable from many agencies once initial data have been acquired. Also, this seed money will allow us to establish general, common abilities to examine cellular adhesion, interaction and differentiation on different surfaces.