BME Seminar: “Medicine that Imitates Life through Biomimetic Drug Delivery”

Date(s) - 10/10/2011
11:45 am - 12:35 pm

Dr. Steven Little, Chemical Engineering & Bioengineering, University of Pittsburgh

Biomimetics (loosely defined) is the emulation of biological elements or processes to solve human problems.  Our research group intends to reproduce the basic spatio-temporal information transfer that naturally occurs between the cells in our body to regulate biological form and function.  As it stands, such is out of the reach of modern medicine. Accordingly, this seminar will introduce the idea that it is now possible to engineer synthetic constructs that can mimic the prose and context of cell-driven “communication” with the goal of inducing and/or regulating key biological processes.  As just one example, simple temporal control over the release of specific growth factors can induce robust formation of specific tissues that naturally regenerate via stage-wise processes. This is possible using recent advances in the precise design of controlled release formulations.  In the same way, this concept can also be used to reproduce spatial information that cells (and even tumors) employ to manipulate immunological responses.  As yet another example, cells utilize surface anisotropy (i.e. uniform patterns of discrete functional moieties), in order to communicate a wealth of information during cell-cell contact.  Accordingly, we have developed techniques to produce ordered patches of biological molecules on the surface of cell-sized microspheres, effectively creating a “synthetic cellular-synapse”. Collectively, these new tools can effectively reproduce biological context and have already shown significant promise as next-generation medical treatments in a variety of disease models where current medical treatments have no answer.