Dr. Hudalla named 2016 Young Innovator by the CMBE

August 24, 2016

Dr. Gregory A. Hudalla, assistant professor in the J. Crayton Pruitt Family Department of Biomedical Engineering, is named a 2016 Young Innovator by the journal Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering (CMBE).

Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering, an official journal of the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES), publishes research that advances the study and control of mechanical, chemical, and electrical processes of the cell. Each year, the editors of CMBE dedicate the Young Innovators special issue to highlighting the work of assistant professors conducting innovative bioengineering research at the molecular, cellular, and multi-cellular level.

Hudalla’s research focuses on developing new methods to fabricate biomaterials with modular therapeutic or diagnostic capabilities via self-assembly of functional biomolecules, such as proteins and carbohydrates, into precise nano-scale architectures. In the 2016 CMBE Young Investigator issue, Hudalla and co-authors report on their work creating a pair of oppositely-charged synthetic peptides, referred to as “CATCH” (Co-assembly tags based on charge complementarity), to install folded proteins into self-assembling biomaterials.  The two CATCH peptides were designed to spontaneously associate into elongated nano-scale fibers when combined in water, yet resist assembly with self-due to like-charge repulsion. This charge-controlled assembly enables efficient microbial production of “fusion proteins” consisting of a CATCH peptide linked to a protein having desirable functional property, such as fluorescence. In turn, CATCH fusion proteins can assemble into functional biomaterials, such as particles and gels, by simply mixing them with the charge-complementary CATCH peptide in water. Hudalla and co-authors envision that this platform will be broadly useful for creating functional biomaterials with interchangeable integrated folded protein components for various biomedical and biotechnological applications.

As a 2016 CMBE Young Innovator, Hudalla will present his research at the 2016 Annual Biomedical Engineering Society Meeting in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on October 7 in a special two-part platform session of the Bioengineering track.


Antonietta’s review paper featured on front cover of J. Materials Chemistry B

Congratulations to Antonietta Restuccia, Maggie Fettis and Dr. Gregory Hudalla for co-authoring a review article “Glycomaterials for immunomodulation, immunotherapy and infection prophylaxis,” which was featured on the front cover of the ninth issue of Journal of Materials Chemistry B.

Antonietta Restuccia and Margaret M. Fettis, both UF BME Ph.D. students in Dr. Hudalla’s lab, co-authored the review article which begins by highlighting the integral role of carbohydrates in innate and adaptive immunity, and provides a detailed survey of emerging synthetic materials modified with carbohydrates (‘glycomaterials’) to harness their biological activity.

Carbohydrates present on the surface of cells or within the extracellular matrix can bind to various soluble and membrane proteins, and these highly specific molecular interactions are important regulators of various immune-related processes, such as inflammation, adaptive memory and tolerance. The article surveys major on-going research efforts to develop glycomaterials that can engage the immune system to prevent or treat diseases. For instance, emphasis is placed on glycomaterials that can inhibit T cell apoptosis, establish antigen-specific tolerance, suppress inflammation, and inhibit viral entry into host cells by modulating the biological activity of carbohydrate-binding proteins. Also, this report surveys recent successes in using glycomaterials as both vaccines to raise adaptive immunity against tumor-associated carbohydrate antigens, and as diagnostic tools to study anti-carbohydrate immunity.

Throughout the article, challenges associated with glycomaterials design and efficacy are discussed, which include the complexity of carbohydrate synthesis, achieving selective targeting of particular carbohydrate-binding proteins, poor carbohydrate stability due to enzymatic degradation, and low protein-carbohydrate binding affinities. They emphasize key features that prove to be critical when engineering glycomaterials, for example, multivalent carbohydrate display, carbohydrate valency, ligand flexibility and availability.

The Journal of Materials Chemistry B is part of the Royal Society of Chemistry Publishing, focusing on the materials field. The journal is interdisciplinary, publishing work of international significance on all aspects of materials chemistry related to biology and medicine.


Maggie & Wei’s research featured in J. Materials Chemistry B Hot Papers

February 21, 2016

Congratulations to Maggie Fettis, Yaohua Wei, Dr. Gregory Hudalla, et al.  for co-authoring their article “Microgels with tunable affinity-controlled protein release via desolvation of self-assembled peptide nanofibers,”  which was featured in the 2016 Journal of Materials Chemistry B Hot Papers.

With a growing number of bioactive protein drugs approved for clinical use each year, there is increasing need for vehicles for localized protein delivery to reduce administered doses, prevent off-target activity, and maintain protein bioactivity. Ideal protein delivery vehicles provide high encapsulation efficiency of bioactive drug, enable fine-tuning of protein release profiles, are biocompatible, and can be administered via minimally-invasive routes. Here we developed an approach to create micron-sized hydrated gels (i.e. “microgels”) for protein delivery that fulfill these requirements via desolvation of self-assembled β-sheet peptide nanofibers.  The desolvating agent induced nanofiber physical crosslinking into microgels that retained β-sheet secondary structure and were stable in aqueous solutions. Biocompatible microgels formed via desolvation of self-assembled peptide nanofibers are therefore likely to be broadly useful as vehicles for localized delivery of bioactive proteins, as well as other therapeutic molecules.

The Journal of Materials Chemistry B is part of the Royal Society of Chemistry Publishing, focusing on the materials field. The journal is interdisciplinary, publishing work of international significance on all aspects of materials chemistry related to biology and medicine.

Dr. Hudalla co-authors book on mimicking the extracellular matrix

Understanding the extracellular matrix (ECM) is both fundamental to basic cell biology research and provides exciting possibilities in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. This book approaches the extracellular matrix from both basic science and practical engineering perspectives. A broad range of topics are presented as paired chapters, one with a biological approach and its partner with a bioengineering approach. Chapters discussing ECM composition and mechanical properties are paired with chapters surveying state-of-the-art strategies to mimic these features with biomaterials. Chapters outlining organizational characteristics of the ECM, such as spatial patterning, temporal fluctuation, and hierarchical assembly, are then paired with chapters highlighting recent advances in novel chemistries to tailor biomaterial composition in both space and time.

“This book summarizes the current understanding of relationships between extracellular matrix composition, structure and function, and ongoing efforts to recapitulate these properties using biomaterials,” said Dr. Hudalla. “By summarizing knowledge of matrix biology alongside the state-of-the-art of biomaterials that mimic the extracellular matrix, our intention is to engage biomaterials engineers and matrix biologists in conversations that stimulate future developments in each of these areas.

Dr. Hudalla’s research focuses on creating biomaterials via molecular “self-assembly,” the spontaneous organization of molecules into higher-ordered architectures. His general approach involves developing engineered biomolecules, such as peptides, proteins, carbohydrates and combinations thereof that self-assemble into particles or fibers with nano-scale features. In one example, his lab combines carbohydrates and peptides to create nanofibers that can recognize carbohydrate-binding proteins and modulate their biological activity. In another project, his lab creates complementary recombinant “assembly tags” that organize engineered proteins into multifunctional nanomedicines having modular therapeutic, targeting and diagnostic properties. His long-term goal is to harness self-assembly to create therapeutic biomaterials that interfere with molecular interactions central to pathological processes, such as autoimmunity, viral infection and metastasis.



Hudalla lab featured in Crosslink magazine

Photo Magazine“Self-assembly can allow you to take different components and bring them together in a precise way to perform a specific function,” Hudalla says. “So let’s say we build a therapeutic intended for the general population, but it doesn’t work for a subset of patients. Instead of rebuilding the whole therapeutic, we can go back and precisely change one or more parts to improve its efficacy. Ideally, we can systematically interchange the different components to achieve optimal effectiveness throughout diverse patient populations.” Read more (Pages 18-19).

photo ar and gaphoto lab sf and ga

Dr. Hudalla receives NSF CAREER Award

We are pleased to announce that Dr. Gregory Hudalla has received a 2015 National Science Foundation Career Award!

The NSF Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program is the National Science Foundation’s most prestigious award in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research.

NSFDr. Hudalla and his team are creating biomaterials that modulate the activity of galectins, a family of carbohydrate-binding proteins that direct cell behavior in various normal and pathological processes, including development, angiogenesis, immunity, cancer, and viral infection. This NSF Career award supports research to create biomaterials that can be tailored to recognize a specific galectin, rather than the entire family, because different galectins can have unique or opposing roles within a given biological process. Tailoring biomaterial galectin-binding specificity will require knowledge of the “sugar code” relating galectin-carbohydrate binding. Studying galectin interactions with natural glycoproteins provides insights into the galectin sugar code, however, elucidating fine details of galectin-binding specificity is hindered by the poorly defined carbohydrate composition of natural glycoproteins and the inability to precisely tailor their carbohydrate content. Thus, Dr. Hudalla and his team are creating biomaterials with well-defined carbohydrate composition as synthetic glycoprotein mimics to probe galectin-carbohydrate binding relationships in greater detail. To achieve this goal, their work merges building blocks that spontaneously self-assemble with bio-inspired enzymatic synthesis to prepare biomaterials in which the type and concentration of integrated carbohydrates can be easily and precisely tailored. Thus, this platform will provide a richer understanding of the galectin sugar code, while also establishing guidelines for the design of biomaterials that can modulate the activity of a specific galectin according to an intended therapeutic application.

In conjunction with these research efforts, Dr. Hudalla is involved in various outreach efforts that provide middle school, high school, and undergraduate students with hands-on engineering experiences to stimulate interest in research and prepare them for STEM careers. Toward this end, this Career award will support continued involvement with established UF programs that engage high school and undergraduate students in scientific research, enable design and implementation of hands-on teaching modules that introduce middle school students to the role of engineering in addressing human health challenges, and support an industry co-op for UF Biomedical Engineering graduate students. Together, these initiatives serve to prepare students for success in STEM careers by fostering confidence in identifying problems, conducting research to address problems, and communicating research findings to scientists and non-scientists alike.

Congratulations, Dr. Hudalla!