Translational Biomaterials for Regenerative Medicine and Cancer Therapy

Date(s) - 02/04/2013
4:00 pm - 5:15 pm

Dr. Blanka Sharma, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, BME, Cleveland Clinic

Biomaterials have the potential to improve therapeutic options for a wide range of clinical problems. The first part of this talk will describe the development and application of a hydrogel for the repair of damaged cartilage in the knee. We engineered an injectable, photopolymerizing hydrogel to direct cartilage differentiation of bone-marrow derived mesenchymal stem cells in situ. The hydrogel was implanted into cartilage defects in the joint where it guided the repair process of endogenous bone marrow stem cells accessed via surgical marrow stimulation. After demonstrating safety and efficacy in a large animal model, the technology was evaluated in a pilot clinical study of 18 patients with symptomatic cartilage lesions in the knee. Patients treated with the hydrogel experienced greater volume of repair tissue fill and a progressive reduction in pain compared to control patients. The second part of this talk will describe the development and application of polymeric nanoparticles for targeted non-viral gene therapy to solid tumors. Tumor targeting is a recurrent problem for nanoparticle-based therapies. We have developed a novel targeting approach based on changes in cell membrane biophysics that occur during malignancy. These nanoparticles were successful in delivering a tumor suppressor gene, p53, to prostate tumors in mice, thereby inhibiting tumor growth and improving animal survival. The underlying principle that forms the basis for my future research is that regulation of the stem cell microenvironment is important to tissue regeneration and cancer treatment. My goal is to develop biomaterials to study and control stem cell behavior, and translate findings into better therapies for traumatic injury, cancer, and degenerative diseases.