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Research at the Beach | CSULB Research Newsletter
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Engineering Therapeutic and Regenerative Technologies

Snapshot of Perla Ayala

The number of people waiting for an organ transplant has increased significantly in the past 20 years. The field of tissue engineering aims to develop strategies to achieve tissue regeneration, and/or to replace damaged organs by using biomaterials, cells, bioactive molecules, and combinations thereof. Tissue engineering is a collaborative and interdisciplinary field; it incorporates knowledge from medicine (i.e. disease models, clinical methods), biology (i.e. immunology, stem cell mechanisms, vascular biology), chemistry (i.e. biomolecular conjugation strategies), and engineering (i.e. materials science, microfabrication techniques, nanoparticle synthesis, transport phenomena) to design innovative therapies. The process of tissue regeneration is complex and involves numerous cell types interacting with each other and acting in specific temporal patterns. Often, this process is not effective and can lead to organ failure. The only option for some patients is organ transplantation. My interest is to develop bioactive materials and engineered tissue substitutes as better alternatives for patients. Soft synthetic and natural polymeric materials are used to develop these novel strategies for tissue repair and organ replacement. Now is possible to create simple tissues, generate in vitro disease models, and fabricate injectable and implantable technologies for tissue regeneration. Furthermore, these therapies can be developed in a broad scale range; from engineered tissues in the centimeter scale to engineered particles in the micro- and nano- meter scale. Many of these have shown promising results in animal models. Challenges still remain, and we are excited to tackle current complications seen in the laboratory and the clinic.

One important challenge is the repair of cardiac tissue after a heart attack. Myocardial infarction can lead to loss of cardiac function and ultimately heart failure. No effective therapy exists to regenerate the damaged myocardium. During my Ph.D. I developed biocompatible miniature structures used as injectable micro-scaffolds and as drug delivery vehicles to facilitate tissue regeneration in vivo after myocardial infarction. The bioengineered miniature scaffolds encapsulate a growth factor to prevent its rapid degradation, promote stem cell migration, reduce fibrosis, and ultimately improve cardiac function in the rat model. Another important challenge is to design mechanically robust tissue replacements that properly integrate with the host tissue. For my postdoctoral training I developed a stem cell laden engineered composite construct for soft tissue repair with improved integration with the host tissue. The collagen-alginate based tissue system, loaded with human mesenchymal stem cells, promotes vascularization and modulation of the immune response. My goal, here at CSULB, is to engineer cohesive in vitro systems to study mechanisms of tissue repair, and to design biomaterials that effectively deliver the necessary stem cells, proteins, and bioactive molecules to the diseased site for the improvement of clinical outcomes. Moreover, we apply a multi-disciplinary and collaborative approach to engineer therapeutic and regenerative systems.

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