The fields of tissue engineering, regenerative medicine, and drug delivery are burgeoning due to the development of new technological advancements in engineering, material science, and chemistry. At the confluence of such diverse fields lies the Biomaterials Innovation Research Center. Located in the hub of Boston, in the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the center is directed by Dr. Ali Khademhosseini. His laboratory is at the forefront of developing micro- and nano scale biomaterials to direct cellular behavior toward a final goal of advanced tissue engineering.
He is particularly well known for his broad expertise in multiple technologies. His laboratory has pushed the boundaries of micro fabrication techniques, such 3D printing, photo lithography, and microfluidics, to build complex tissues that more accurately mimic organs in the body. One of the major things his laboratory aims to do is to use innovations in microengineering technology to create artificial tissues that closely mimic the architecture of native tissues. He has won several awards for his contributions to the field of biomaterials, the most recent being an award from the Society of Biomaterials. We recently had an opportunity to interview Dr. Khademhosseini to find out more about their work.
Rukmani Sridharan, Medgadget: Congrats on your recent 2017 Clemson Award for Contributions to the Literature from the Society for Biomaterials. Where do you derive your inspiration from and who are your mentors you look up to in your field?
Dr. Khademhosseini: I get inspiration from seeing other great people do great work. My mentors Bob Langer and Nicholas Peppas are two great examples of this.
Medgadget: Your recent paper outlining the liver-on-a-chip technology has garnered a lot of attention in the medical technology field due to its ease of use for in vitro drug toxicity testing. The paper published in 2016 uses a gelatin methacrylate hydrogel to encapsulate cells from the liver. The team designed a bioreactor to culture the cells in the hydrogel for 30 days, and cells maintained their hepatocyte phenotype over the period of culture. Interestingly, this model was able to replicate the drug toxicity testing done in animal models, paving the way for the use of such technologies in in vitro drug testing. Moving forward, such technologies will drastically bring down the costs and the number of animals used for drug testing. What are some of the challenges you faced while developing this technology and what hurdles lie ahead for the organ-on-a-chip field?
Dr. Khademhosseini: Getting proper cells and organizing them into tissues that can mimic human tissue response is the big challenge. As is the ability to monitor their behavior non-invasively.
Medgadget: What are some of the emerging materials being used in the biomaterials field? Are we moving toward using more natural materials such as collagen and silk or synthetic materials such as graphene?
Dr. Khademhosseini: We are doing work with both natural and synthetic materials. We published work on shear thinning gels recently in Science Translational Medicine for endovascular embolization.
[Note: Medgadget covered the paper when it was published. More information on the sheer thinning hydrogels can be found here.]
Medgadget: You have a wide scope of research from tissue engineering to stem cell engineering to organ on a chip technology and 3D bioprinting. Which of these fields do you think will see the most advancement in the coming years and why?
Dr. Khademhosseini : I think that the integration of these fields is where major breakthroughts will be.