Modification of electroactive biomaterials for neural engineering applications
New tissue engineering technologies will rely increasingly more on interactive biomaterials that can both physically support tissue growth and stimulate specific cell functions. In our research, we have focused on a biomaterial with electrical properties (i.e., the electrically conducting polymer, polypyrrole) that has been shown to improve the regeneration of several tissues including nerve. We have modified polypyrrole for tissue engineering applications by either incorporating biological molecules that can specifically trigger desired cellular responses (e.g., the formation of new blood vessels), or by adding unique linkage sites within the polypyrrole backbone to control its degradation and mechanical integrity. To this end, we are synthesizing two distinct materials: (1) composites of polypyrrole and the polysaccharide hyaluronan which stimulates angiogenesis as it degrades; and (2) conducting pyrrole oligomers of three units in length connected using degradable ester linkages. These materials are promising candidates for tissue engineering applications, such as nerve repair, that may benefit from electrical stimulation and/or enhanced vascularization.