The morphological characteristics and the mechanical properties of advanced biomaterials are the determining factors for their successful applications in drug delivery and tissue engineering applications. In drug delivery, the morphology and the mechanical properties of synthetic biomaterials determine the tissue distribution and the ultimate fate of the drug carriers. Depending on the shape, size and porosity of polymeric particles, the kinetics and the mechanisms of cellular internationalization can be dramatically different. In the context of tissue engineering, the structures of scaffolding materials, from the molecular level to the macroscopic scale, determine the mechanical properties, solute diffusion and cell-matrix interactions. Indeed, Nature modulates the mechanical properties of biological tissues by subtle adjustments of its composition with a perceivable alteration of its nanoscale organization. Recent studies have confirmed the effects of matrix stiffness in controlling cell morphology, adhesion, proliferation and differentiation. An interesting new development in recent years is the alteration of materials structures in response to the applied chemical signals and mechanical stress and how these stimuli can be used to manipulate the spatial distribution of biological signals. The Microscopy and Mechanical Testing (MMT) Core, equipped with stateof- the-art imaging techniques, scattering tools and mechanical testing capabilities, is designed to answer these important questions. The MMT Core was established during previous COBRE funding years and will be strengthened and maintained by our COBRE team through new method developments. The MMT Core will be developed in two steps. The initial phase (years 1-3) focuses on cultivating user groups, facility development and staff training, leading to the mature phase (years 4-5 &beyond) where the Core will be self- sustained with user-fees.
The ability to develop advanced biomaterials with customized control over morphological, mechanical and biological properties will lead to significant advancement in biomedical fields. The MMT Core will provide advanced characterization capabilities to help COBRE researchers gain fundamental understanding of structure-property relationship of their materials in the context of specific cellular and tissue environment. These studies will ultimately generate materials systems that are optimized for their targeted drug delivery and tissue engineering applications.
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