Research in our laboratory focuses on understanding and exploiting the interactions of cells with nanostructures for therapeutic applications. Discrete nanostructures in the form of multi-functional nanoparticles are applied to deliver drugs, antigen, protein, siRNA, and DNA to cells for drug, gene, and immunotherapy. Continuous nanostructures in the form of electrospun nanofiber and imprinted nanopattern are applied to influence cellular behavior, particularly human embryonic and adult stem cells.
Two of the major challenges to realizing the ultimate potential of regenerative medicine are to procure enough number of the starting cells, and to coax these cells to grow and differentiate with the correct characteristics into functional tissues. This would require the cells to be expanded or cultured in the proper microenvironment, preferably one that mimics the microenvironment surrounding the cells in the body. One major objective of our lab is to create this biomimetic microenvironment by synthesizing and fabricating nanomaterials endowed with topographical cues, encapsulated growth factors and surface-immobilized adhesion ligands.