Feb. 25, 2019
Undergraduate student Tran Ngo received a competitive University Scholars Program (USP) grant for her research in the Schmidt lab. USP serves as an exceptional capstone to the academic careers of students at the University of Florida. Tran is a currently third-year Biomedical Engineering student who has been working in the Schmidt Lab since Fall 2016 under the direct mentorship of PhD candidate Benjamin Spearman.
Tran’s research has been focused on fabrication and characterization of hyaluronic acid (HA) based hydrogel scaffolds for peripheral nerve regeneration caused by injuries, which often result in a loss of motor and/or sensory function. 3D bioprinting of natural ECM-based bioinks such as HA and collagen can be used to provide custom scaffolds with microarchitecture and regeneration-promoting cells. In this project, Tran examined the rheological properties of the different crosslinked hydrogels for optimization as a 3D bio-printable bioink and as a match to the mechanical properties of native peripheral nerve tissue. She has also worked on quantifying the printability of these HA-based bioinks. To continue, Tran is looking into embedding microarchitecture into the scaffolds to provide support for better axonal elongation and nerve regeneration. Furthermore, Tran will 3D bio-print Schwann cells with the optimized HA-collagen hydrogel and assess cell viability post-printing. This project aims to utilize additive manufacturing approaches such as 3D bioprinting to build application- and patient-specific designs with high resolution and structural complexity for peripheral nerve regeneration.