Dr. Ecker received NSF CAREER Award

We are excited to share that Dr. Ecker has received the prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER award to conduct research on Shape Memory Polymers as Biomaterial.

CAREER: The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program is a Foundation-wide activity that offers the National Science Foundation’s most prestigious awards in support of early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization. Activities pursued by early-career faculty should build a firm foundation for a lifetime of leadership in integrating education and research.

NSF Website

This CAREER project aims to elucidate the underlying mechanism of the plasticization-induced shape memory effect of thiol-ene based polymers. The model application for this material will be a heat shrink tubing that can shrink at bodily conditions (37° C and simulated body fluids) and can be used to seal colonic anastomosis. The specific three aims are to (1) Systematically investigate the effect of crosslink-density and chain extender length on the plasticization-induced shape memory effect of thiol-ene based polymers. Mechanical and thermomechanical measurements inside simulated body fluids will be used to assess shape memory properties and structure-property relationships. (2) Understand the relationship between material thickness, degree of shape-programming, and radial recovery forces of tube-shaped SMPs to determine optimal design parameters for sufficient shape recovery using the heat shrink tube model. (3) Demonstrate the functionality of a biomedical heat shrink tube that utilizes the plasticization-induced shape recovery through an ex vivo colon anastomosis model and quantify mechanical and sealing properties. The proposed research will advance science by filling the gap in the structure-property relationship of thiol-ene based SMPs that utilize plasticization for their shape recovery, which is essential for designing future devices. In addition, this innovative biomaterial will allow the broader research community to develop novel biomedical devices tailored to specific tissues and applications. Educational and outreach activities will be implemented to raise excitement, awareness, and interest in the emerging field of smart polymeric biomaterials. These will include a gender- and ethnicity-matched mentor-mentee program, training students from underrepresented groups in the PI’s laboratory, incorporating research discoveries into coursework, and communicating research to the general public at local science slam events.

Here is a link to the full abstract

New Publication: Thermo/hydration responsive shape memory polymers with enhanced hydrophilicity for biomedical applicationsNew Publication:

A collaborative project with the Voit Group from UT Dallas. Congratulations, Qichan, for this contribution!

Abstract

Thiol-ene/acrylate shape memory polymers (SMPs) have sufficient stiffness for facile insertion and precision placement and soften after exposure to physiological conditions to reduce the mechanical mismatch with body tissue. As a result, they have demonstrated excellent potential as substrates for various flexible bioelectronic devices, such as cochlear implants, nerve cuffs, cortical probes, plexus blankets, and spinal cord stimulators. To enhance the shape recovery properties and softening effect of SMPs under physiological conditions, we designed and implemented a new class of SMPs as bioelectronics substrates. In detail, we introduced dopamine acrylamide (DAc) as a hydrophilic monomer into a current thiol-ene polymer network. Dry and soaked dynamic mechanical analyses were performed to evaluate the thermomechanical properties, softening kinetics under wet conditions, and shape recovery properties. Modification of SMPs by DAc provided an improved softening effect and shape recovery speed under physiological conditions. Here, we report a new strategy for designing SMPs with enhanced shape recovery properties and lower moduli than previously reported SMPs under physiological conditions without sacrificing stiffness at room temperature by introducing a hydrophilic monomer.

Do you want to read more? The full publication can be found here:

https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1361-665X/aca576

New Publication: Recyclable, Biobased Photoresins for 3D Printing Through Dynamic Imine Exchange

This work was led by the Smaldone Group from UT Dallas. Lauren and Chandani completed some of the thermomechanical characterizations.

Abstract

Transimination reactions are highly effective dynamic covalent reactions to enable reprocessability in thermosets, as they can undergo exchange without the need for catalysts, by exposing the materials to external stimuli such as heat. In this work, a series of five biobased vanillin-derived resin formulations consisting of vanillin acrylate with vanillin methacrylate-functionalized Jeffamines were synthesized and 3D-printed using digital light projection (DLP). The resulting thermosets displayed a range of mechanical properties (Young’s modulus 2.05–332 MPa), which allow for an array of applications. The materials we obtained have self-healing abilities, which were characterized by scratch healing tests. Additionally, dynamic transimination reactions enable these thermosets to be reprocessed when thermally treated above their glass transition temperatures under high pressures using a hot press. Due to the simple synthetic procedures and the readily available commercial Jeffamines, these materials will aid in promoting a shift to materials with predominantly biobased content and help drift away from polymers made from non-renewable resources.

Do you want to read more? The full publication can be found here: https://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/acssuschemeng.2c03541

New publication: Flexible and Stretchable Bioelectronics

The first publication of 2022 is now published and online available! Congratulations to Chandani, Eric, and Lauren for their great review paper on stretchable and flexible bioelectronics!

Abstract

Medical science technology has improved tremendously over the decades with the invention of robotic surgery, gene editing, immune therapy, etc. However, scientists are now recognizing the significance of ‘biological circuits’ i.e., bodily innate electrical systems for the healthy functioning of the body or for any disease conditions. Therefore, the current trend in the medical field is to understand the role of these biological circuits and exploit their advantages for therapeutic purposes. Bioelectronics, devised with these aims, work by resetting, stimulating, or blocking the electrical pathways. Bioelectronics are also used to monitor the biological cues to assess the homeostasis of the body. In a way, they bridge the gap between drug-based interventions and medical devices. With this in mind, scientists are now working towards developing flexible and stretchable miniaturized bioelectronics that can easily conform to the tissue topology, are non-toxic, elicit no immune reaction, and address the issues that drugs are unable to solve. Since the bioelectronic devices that come in contact with the body or body organs need to establish an unobstructed interface with the respective site, it is crucial that those bioelectronics are not only flexible but also stretchable for constant monitoring of the biological signals. Understanding the challenges of fabricating soft stretchable devices, we review several flexible and stretchable materials used as substrate, stretchable electrical conduits and encapsulation, design modifications for stretchability, fabrication techniques, methods of signal transmission and monitoring, and the power sources for these stretchable bioelectronics. Ultimately, these bioelectronic devices can be used for wide range of applications from skin bioelectronics and biosensing devices, to neural implants for diagnostic or therapeutic purposes.

Do you want to read more? The full publication can be found here.

Congratulations Grads!

We want to congratulate all our recent graduates from UNT Biomedical Engineering!

Engineering | UNT Commencement Fall 2021
Doctoral and Master’s I | UNT Commencement Fall 2021

Graduates from our lab are:

  • Sukhpreet Singh (MS in BMEN)
  • Eric Hedrick (MS in BMEN)
  • Joy-Anne Najwa Oliver (MS in BMEN)

And our Lab Manager:

  • Edward Gates (MS in BMEN)

Congratulation to all of you!

New publication: Incorporation of Novel Elements in Bioactive Glass Compositions to Enhance Implant Performance

The third publication this year from our lab is now online available. Joy-anne and Olanrewaju have worked together on this book chapter for ‘Bioactive Glass – Recent Advances, New Perspectives and Applications’ from IntechOpen. A hard copy of this book will be available later this year.

Abstract

Increasing popularities of bioactive-glasses and their potential medical applications have led to countless studies into improving their material characteristics and overall performance. Some scientists hope to create new bioactive-glass compositions, while others seek to merely modify existing ones such as the novel 45S5 bioactive-glass composition; created by Dr. Larry Hench. These modifications aim to address potential complications that may arise at a site following implantation such as bacterial infections. In other cases, the incorporation of a selected element or compound may aim to improve the implant functioning by increasing cell proliferation. Although possibilities are plentiful, researchers avoid compromising the typical bioactive glass characteristics when doping with elements such as silver, or gold to achieve additional properties. This chapter elaborates on the incorporation of popular elements by doping bioactive-glass compositions to introduce desired properties based on the implant application.

Do you want to read more? The full publication can be found here.

Congrats Sukhpreet

Congratulations to Sukhpreet Singh for successfully defending his Maters’ Thesis on “IN VITRO ELECTROCHEMICAL EVALUATION OF BIOELECTRONIC PROBES”. Sukhpreet was the first M.S. student that did his thesis with our lab and we couldn’t be prouder of his accomplishments.

We are wishing you all the best in your future endeavors!

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