Bryan A Johnson, MD, Jennifer Vernengo, PhD, Jennifer Kadlowec, PhD, Christine Iftode, PhD. Cooper University Hospital of Rowan University, Rowan University Department of Engineering.
Tissue engineering is a multidisciplinary field that aims to repair or regenerate lost or damaged tissues and organs in the body. A key aspect of tissue engineering is the use of a scaffold, or three-dimensional biomaterial that houses stem cells and provides biochemical cues to promote the formation of new tissue. However, for certain applications, success of a tissue engineering strategy depends on having a scaffold that adheres with adjacent tissue, anchoring it in place, and thereby potentially improving outcomes. Such integration may be achieved with the use of a bioadhesive polymer that covalently bonds with tissue. However, current bioadhesive polymers suffer from poor biocompatibility. In this collaborative project among faculty at Rowan University and Cooper University Hospital, we aim to design and characterize a bioadhesive polymer so that, in addition to bonding with tissue, it can support cell survival and differentiation post-adhesion with surrounding tissue. In the current work, we present the characterization of the adhesive strength of a multi-component “smart” hydrogel system. We also demonstrate the thermally triggered release of ECM-derived components, which become integrated into the gel, allowing for the assembly of a biomimetic matrix. In future work, we will characterize the long-term viability of adipose-derived stem cells encapsulated within the scaffold. This work will have therapeutic potential for several tissue engineering applications, such as fistula and intervertebral disc repair.