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The Levinson Emerging Scholars Program

Ben Dulken - Bioengineering

Ben DulkenBen Dulken is currently a senior in the Bioengineering department. He got his first exposure to biomedical research as a lab assistant in the Kaeberlein Lab (UW Patholgy) during his freshman year. He was drawn to research by the opportunity to apply what he had been learning in his classes to achieve clinically relevant findings which could improve the quality of life for suffering individuals. He spent about a year in the Kaeberlein Lab investigating the genetic mechanisms of aging in yeast. Subsequently, Ben moved to the lab of Prof. Suzie Pun in the Department of Bioengineering to investigate novel drug delivery materials. While in the Pun Lab, Ben has been involved with several projects including the development of a micelle delivery system for solid tumor imaging agents and chemotherapeutics, and his current project, the investigation of a novel drug loaded hydrogel to provide controlled delivery of an ototherapeutic agent to the inner ear over an extended period of time. Throughout his undergraduate career he has participated in several research-oriented programs including the Amgen Scholars Program and the DAAD Research Internships in Science and Engineering. He plans to continue to pursue his passion for biomedical research by pursuing an MD/PhD. When he is not in the lab, Ben enjoys cycling, hiking, and playing the piano.

Mentor: Suzie Pun, Bioengineering

Project Title: Novel hydrogel for the delivery of cochlear therapeutics using complexation of -cyclodextrin conjugated PEO-PHB-PEO triblock copolymers and adamantane conjugated multi-arm PEGs.

Abstract: The loss of the hair cells of the cochlea of the inner ear can result in permanent hearing loss. Recently, the Rubel lab (UW Otolaryngology) has identified a molecule which can prevent hair cell death induced by the antibiotic neomycin, however, they have had difficulty delivering PROTO1 to the inner ear. This project involves the design, formulation, and characterization of a novel drug loaded hydrogel for delivery of PROTO1 to the inner ear. The drug loaded hydrogel will be applied at the round window membrane of the cochlea via surgical insertion. Over an extended period of approximately three to four weeks the drug contained in the hydrogel will be released and diffuse through the round window membrane into the fluid paths of the cochlea, where it is therapeutically active. The design will use modified PEO-PHB-PEO triblock polymer which will be cross linked by the interactions of adamantane and -cyclodextrin. The hydrogels will be composed of a mixture of -cyclodextrin conjugated triblock copolymers and adamantane conjugated multi-arm PEG. When these two polymers types are mixed, inclusion complexes between the adamantane and -cyclodextrin moieties will cross link the polymers and induce the formation of a supramolecular hydrogel. This work builds on previous work which has demonstrated the formation of hydrogels when the PEO-PHB-PEO triblock copolymer is cross linked with a-cyclodextrin This design is superior to its predecessor in that it could potentially allow for hydrogel formulation at lower polymer concentrations, and could potentially increase the stability of the hydrogel, sustaining drug release over a longer period of time. Hydrogel preparation parameters will be optimized by investigation of the thermosensitive, viscoelastic, and drug release properties of the hydrogel. The in vivo therapeutic efficacy of the drug loaded hydrogel will be measured in a rat or guinea pig model.