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The Washington Research Foundation Fellowship
Cameron Nemeth - Bioengineering: Nanoscience & Molecular Engineering
Ever since I was little, I was always attracted to one of the greatest marvels of this universe: life itself. My interest in bioengineering was piqued for the first time, however, after witnessing how medical devices and implantable materials became a reality to help patients. After witnessing these medical miracles, I knew that I wanted to conduct research in regenerative medicine to improve the quality of life of patients. I entered the University of Washington with the intent of pursuing bioengineering research as my primary motivation. Since the summer of my freshman year, I have been conducting research in Dr. Deok-Ho Kim's lab. His research is focused on how engineered microenvironments can direct cell function and regeneration. Currently, I am investigating how specially designed microenvironments of varying topographies, rigidities, and chemical cues can direct stem cell differentiation into cell lineages found in the heart. My growth would not have been possible without the incredible support and mentorship I have had in Dr. Kim's lab.
Mentor: Deok-Ho Kim, Bioengineering
Project Title: Engineering combinatorial microenvironments for human cardiovascular cell fate determination
Abstract: Myocardial infarction remains the leading cause of death and disability in developed nations. While current therapeutics are able to slow the progression of heart disease, there are no viable treatment options to repair damaged myocardium. As such, cardiac stem cell therapy has received much attention for its promise to repair damaged heart tissue. However, there currently is no ideal stem cell source for cardiac stem cell therapy. Cardiovascular progenitors (CVPs) are stem cells that can differentiate into cardiomyocytes, endothelial cells, and vascular smooth muscle cells, but CVP cell fate determination is not well understood. It is well known that stem cells respond to the physical, geometric, and chemical cues provided by the microenvironment. Herein, we report the development of a platform that allows specific design and control over the in vitro stem cell microenvironment. Polyurethane acrylate (PUA) is a synthetic polymer with tunable rigidity and can be used to form nanopatterned substrates through the use of capillary-force lithography (CFL). Bifunctional PUA-binding peptides that contain the RGD peptide sequence are used for presentation of cell adhesion sites. We report precise control over the physical rigidity, nanotopographical dimensions, and RGD peptide presentation. We anticipate that our platform will be able determine the optimal conditions required for directing CVP cell fate. Thus, by determining the conditions responsible for CVP cell fate determination, CVPs could be a viable cell source for cardiac stem cell therapies.