The Bioengineering Research Center's efforts are focused on performing innovative research to address issues related to the integration of engineered materials into human physiology and to the development of novel technologies for early-stage diagnosis and management of disease. The theme that connects all of the projects in the BERC is the translation of research to the public sector. The active participation of scientists, engineers, clinicians and industrial partners on the project teams drive the basic science to product development. This structure stimulates the free flow of ideas, outcomes and needs between the investigators, end-users and industrial partners.
The development of novel synthetic, bio-enabled or tissue-engineered materials that could serve as durable replacements for biologic tissue destroyed by disease, injury or the aging process is one of the most exciting areas of investigation in both medicine and dentistry. One challenge is to develop biomaterials that possess lightweight hierarchical structures with self-healing capabilities and fatigue-resistant design while also recognizing the need for technological approaches that will reduce cost, improve productivity and assure the delivery of high quality products in a timely manner. The ACE approach, presented above, represents an integration of structure/property data collected from the biologic tissue and captured in computational tools. This approach offers an effective mechanism for developing lightweight, self-healing and fatigue resistant biomaterials while addressing the need to improve productivity and decrease time spent on synthesis and testing of materials that do not meet the requirements.
The combination of multi-scale experimental measurements with computational/mathematical modeling provides insights beyond what could be accomplished if either of the approaches were applied independently. This combination will alleviate the typical disadvantage of mathematical models that stems from the less-than-perfect empirical information available to make the models realistic. Needless to say, the proposed multi-scale modeling approach will afford the advantage that parameters that cannot be easily modified in the laboratory may be easily varied in the models, and the models may be exercised for a variety of conditions.
Material/Tissue Interface Characterization
In the exploration of new biomaterials, one area that has been largely overlooked is chemical and mechanical characterization of the material/tissue interface. This is a particularly challenging area of investigation since many of the current analytical techniques do not offer the required spatial resolution to study reactions occurring at the interface or the conditions, i.e. temperature, vacuum, etc., under which the sample must be analyzed, destroy or significantly damage/alter the biologic tissue. To address these problems, we have developed nondestructive techniques to characterize and quantify reactions at the material/tissue interface.