For tissue engineering applications, our lab is developing protein-based biomaterials to promote mesenchymal stem cell differentiation towards particular cell fates (e.g., bone or cartilage). We have genetically engineered modular proteins containing peptides containing growth factors and have designed proteins that can respond to environmental changes (e.g., temperature or pH). Overall, our work demonstrates that bioactive cues based on peptides or proteins can successfully promote adult stem cell differentiation to desired lineages. For surgical adhesive applications, we designed protein-based adhesives containing two domains: a structural domain that provides flexibility and an adhesive domain that provides the ability to adhere in wet environments. Our material demonstrates high cytocompatibility (>98% viability) and significant bulk adhesive strength when dry (approximately 1 MPa). Furthermore, due to coacervation that occurs at physiological conditions, the material can easily be applied underwater and provides the strongest bonds of any rationally designed protein when used completely underwater. The unique properties of this new family of materials are ideal for application as a soft tissue surgical adhesive, as well as coatings for cell attachment or scaffolds for tissue engineering.
Professor Liu received her B.S.E. in chemical engineering from Princeton University. She was awarded a Whitaker Graduate Fellowship for her doctoral research at the California Institute of Technology. She received an NIH postdoctoral fellowship for her research at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. She is an associate professor of chemical engineering and biomedical engineering at Purdue University. She is currently a Purdue University Faculty Scholar. She won the 2021 Purdue College of Engineering Faculty Excellence Award for Graduate Mentorship and was a 2019-2020 fellow in the Executive Leadership in Academic Technology, Engineering, and Sciences (ELATES) program. Her research interests include biomimetic materials, tissue engineering, stem cell differentiation, and surgical adhesives. Her research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, Eli Lilly, National Institutes of Health, Department of Defense, American Heart Association, and a 3M Nontenured Faculty Award.
Hosts: Dr. Beth Hutchinson and Dr. Russ Witte
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