Composite Materials as a Candidate for Tissue Regeneration (BEP)
What and Why
Recent advances in materials science have highlighted the synergistic effect of different components on key mechanical properties of biological material. For instance, a mixture of type-I collagen and hyaluronan (HA) exhibits greater stiffness than the sum of the individual parts. Cartilage is vital in the body for maintaining function in joints which is primarily composed of a mixture of collagen and HA with embedded cells. There is a pressing need for new treatments for cartilage repair as once cartilage has degraded, e.g. due to osteoarthritis, the tissue cannot repair itself and there are few treatments available which restore function.
Tissue engineering provides a route to cartilage repair, where artificial tissue may provide a method for re-functionalising native cartilage. However, the collagen in cartilage is type-II collagen and therefore use of type-I may lead to negative patient outcomes. Therefore, it is essential to study the mechanical properties of type-II collagen, and composites with HA, as the first step for tissue engineering for cartilage repair.
In this project, you will produce gels with differing compositions of type-II collagen and HA and test their mechanical properties. There are a variety of methods which can be used for this including bulk rheometry, micro-rheology or nanoindentation. Additionally, the measured mechanical properties may be correlated with structural properties measured via microscopy techniques. The final results will provide a crucial step in the goal of treating cartilage degradation by tissue engineering.