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Honorable Mention: Reilly Callahan

Self-Assembling Hydrogels Based on Glycosaminoglycan-Peptide Hybrid Molecules for Tissue Engineering

Department: Bioengineeing
Advisor: Lesley Chow

Articular cartilage has insufficient repair mechanisms, emphasizing the need for regenerative therapies. This project aims to provide a biomaterials-based strategy to promote cartilage regeneration by creating injectable hydrogels that mimic the body’s natural cartilaginous extracellular matrix. We modified glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), a major component of cartilage, with β-sheet-forming peptides to generate GAG-peptide hybrid molecules that self-assemble into hydrogels via β-sheet formation. These non-covalent interactions introduce reversible gelation properties that allow the hydrogel to reassemble after injection. Hydrogel synthesis and properties were characterized by NMR and rheology, respectively. Preliminary work with human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) showed that the cells could be encapsulated in the hydrogels. Current and future work include in vitro studies to observe hMSC behavior and differentiation. This work suggests these biomaterials will provide novel, minimally invasive treatments for patients with damaged or diseased cartilage.

About Reilly Callahan:
Reilly Callahan is a Bioengineering junior specializing in Biopharmaceutical Engineering with an expected graduation in 2019. She joined the Chow Lab as an undergraduate researcher in Summer 2017 as part of the Biosystems Dynamics Summer Institute (BDSI) Program and has continued during the 2017-2018 academic year. Reilly’s intense curiosity in her academic life led her to join a National Honor Fraternity, Phi Sigma Pi. Since joining during her first year at Lehigh, she has been incredibly active within the fraternity, holding leadership and/or executive positions every semester. Her current role pushes her to maintain connections between the chapter, its alumni, and the national office. Reilly also serves as an orientation leader to mentor first-year students through their college transition and collaborates with various people across campus. After graduating, she plans to complement her B.S. in Bioengineering with a M.S. in Chemical Engineering.