Studying biomaterials

A research group is using temperature-controlled microscopy to study multiscale biomaterials to engineer living cells and tissues for cancer treatment and cell-based medicine

Professor Xiaoming ‘Shawn’ He is with the Fischell Department of Bioengineering at the University of Maryland, USA. Professor He’s research is focused on developing multiscale biomaterials to engineer living cells and tissues for two applications: cancer treatment and cell-based medicine.

Porfessor He’s base is the Multiscale Biomaterials Engineering Laboratory. It is dedicated to research and education on developing multiscale (nano, micro and macro) biomaterials and devices with bioinspired spatiotemporal complexity to firstly encapsulate and deliver small molecules, genes, peptides/proteins, cells and tissues and secondly, engineer 3D biomimetic systems in vitro with the ultimate goal of improving the safety and efficacy of cancer treatment, tissue regeneration and assisted reproduction.

One of the important fields in this work is lyophilisation, the study of freeze drying. He’s group studies ice formation during cooling and freezing biological samples to minimise the damage to biological cells during cooling and freeze-drying biological samples for banking at both cryogenic and ambient temperatures.

Over his research career starting in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Ohio State University, He has selected Linkam stages for his freeze drying studies. This originated from the fact that the stages have been reported in many published studies, allowing him to compare his work with that in the literature. He has been using the Linkam FDCS196 stage in his research to study ice formation. The FDCS stage is widely used in lyophilisation laboratories across the world. It combines a cryo stage with light microscopy techniques to quickly and accurately determine collapse and eutectic temperatures and intricately investigate the freeze-dried structure of complex samples.

He has published widely. His research works include a paper(1) that describes new ways of cryopreservation of stem cells. This is important to help meet the ever-increasing demands of cell-based medicine. The role of the Linkam stage was to study the inhibition of devitrification and intracellular ice formation. A second paper(2) looks at ways of stopping cell injury that may occur in the cooling and warming processes. Here, the FDCS stage was used to mimic the ice seeding process and checking cell viability in situ.

1 Alginate Hydrogel Microencapsulation Inhibits Devitrification and Enables Large-Volume Low-CPA Cell Vitrification, Haishui Huang et al, Adv. Funct. Mater. 2015, 25, 6839­6850, DOI: 10.1002/adfm.201503047

2 Predehydration and Ice Seeding in the Presence of Trehalose Enable Cell Cryopreservation, Haishui Huang et al, ACS Biomater. Sci. Eng. 2017, 3, 1758-1768 DOI 10.1021/acsbiomaterials.7b00201

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