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| Myocardium infarction is the leading cause of death in the western world, causing 1 of every 7 deaths. Current clinical solutions consist of bridge therapies for the whole organ transplantation. In the context of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, researchers in the lab of Dr. Michael Monaghan are developing cell-based strategies to obtain adult cardiac tissues differentiated from stem cell sources to repair damaged myocardium or engineer cardiac organoids in vitro.
The recapitulation of the cardiac electro-mechanical environment can be a pivotal trigger for the mature cardiac phenotype maturation. Conductive polymers such as poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene) :poly(styrenesulfonate) (PEDOT:PSS) are electrically conductive, easily processable, biocompatible and are being harnessed into both 2D and 3D structures for in vitro cardiac tissue engineering http://www.monaghanlab.com).
Recently, the Dr. Monaghan’s Team have had performed successful feasibility studies in employing these electroconductive materials as controllable platforms of non-viral delivery. Non-viral delivery can be used as a therapeutic to reprogram cells to make proteins that can be therapeutic and enhance wound healing and stem cell differentiation. This breakthrough is a novel approach in employing electrical stimulation to enhance and control gene-delivery which allows the merging of smart biomaterials with genetic engineering.
The overall goal of this project is to apply defined electric field patterns (using an established custom-bioreactor system) to 3D electroconductive scaffolds loaded with non-viral gene vectors and study their effect on prolonged and transient protein expression.
1) To load, conjugate and characterise a non-viral gene vector encapsulated in 3D scaffolds
2) To investigate the correlation between electrical field stimulation of 3D PEDOT:PSS porous scaffolds already
developed in the Monaghan Lab with expression of reporter proteins
3) To design a prototype able to apply electric field stimulation to a porous scaffold PEDOT:PSS scaffold.
Methods Employed: non-viral gene therapy, nucleic acids research, polymer chemistry, biomaterial fabrication, in vitro cell culture, cell isolation, electro-conductivity testing, mechanical testing (dynamic compression), statistical analysis, 3D modelling, 3D printing.
Deliverable: This project will lay a strong framework towards impacting the field of flexible electroconductive 3D biomaterials as drug delivery and/or gene activating matrices.
Mentorship: Student will work on a team with one PhD student as a main contact point and will be supported by the PI and the rest of the team.
Research and development
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