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Rachel Young

Optimization of Electrospinning Thermoresponsive, Biocompatible Substrates for Cell Culture

Department: Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
Advisor: Dr. Lauren Anderson

Stimuli responsive polymers respond to changes in physical or chemical conditions by altering their properties. One such polymer, poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) (PNIPAM) has multiple biomedical applications due to its ability to undergo a reversible phase transition at a physiologically relevant lower critical solution temperature (LCST) of 32°C. Above the LCST, PNIPAM exhibits a collapsed conformation allowing for protein adsorption and cell adhesion. Below the LCST, PNIPAM swells into a hydrophilic phase causing cultured cells to mechanically release from the substrate. Important cell-cell and cell-matrix interactions are expected to be preserved in the release. Cells attachment is greatly affected by the architecture of the scaffold: nanoscale architectures mimic extracellular matrix (ECM) structure and have larger surface area to volume ratios for absorbing proteins and exposing binding sites to cell membrane receptors. Electrospinning is a simple technique able to fabricate the nanoscale architecture conducive to greater cell adhesion in culture.1 The objective of the study was to optimize the electrospinning of PNIPAM to produce nanofiber scaffolds – in the range of 400-700 nm – capable of mechanically releasing adherent cells below the LCST. Further optimization of the electrospinning process was conducted to create aligned nanofibrous meshes capable of guiding the migration and extension of cells, mimicking alignment found in vivo in cell lumens. A novel electrospinning technique was developed for the fabrication of aligned nanofibrous scaffolds made of PNIPAM.

About Rachel Young:
Rachel Young is a senior chemical engineering major at Lafayette College. She plans on attending graduate school for a PhD in biomedical engineering next year. She is interested in biomaterials research for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. Outside of research, Rachel is a resident advisor, peer tutor, and a member of the Lafayette College Percussion Ensemble. She enjoys spending time outdoors and hanging out with friends.