Collagen immunostaining (green) of rabbit’s colon (red), and Dendrimer:Dextran adhesive hydrogel (green) applied to rat’s colon (red).
Biomaterials of ever-greater sophistication are being implanted in the body for the purposes of drug delivery, tissue regeneration, and structural support. An ongoing challenge, however, has been appropriately designing biomaterials in vitro that will exhibit optimal in vivo performance. The complex chemical, mechanical, and biological environment inside the body is highly variable based on the site of implantation, disease states, and the dynamic cellular milieu following implantation. This complexity makes traditional static and inert materials unlikely candidates for successful implants. To address this shortfall, we design ‘smart’ biomaterial systems that dynamically interact with and report information about the implantation site in a tissue- and disease-specific manner. We use polymer chemistry, mechanical testing, in vivo tracking of tagged nanoparticles and drugs, and a variety of disease models to develop rationally designed biomaterials with controlled tissue integration, mechanics, release kinetics, and degradation profiles. By using this technology, we can develop new biomaterial ‘platforms’ that can not only convey information about different disease states but can also be tuned to interact accordingly.