The central goal for the research group is developing novel and effective therapeutic strategies for human patients of neural trauma and degenerative diseases through multidisciplinary approaches using a combination of basic sciences and engineering perspective.

Injectable Biomimetic Biohydrid Hydrogel to Engineer Neural Microenvironment

We aim to develop a biohybrid hydrogel to deliver and allow a sustained release of various intrinsic factors to engineer the neural microenvironment after SCI. Hyaluronic acid based hydrogel will be engineered as a modular platform with various remodeling, guidance, and signaling cues which may provide the unique opportunity to investigate the individual and combinational effects of various microenvironmental factors of in vivo on SCI. In addition, this modular platform can simplify in vivo environment so that the effects of an individual factor can be isolated in vitro to identify what aspects of the in vivo environmental factors can contribute to tissue development after injury.

Gene Therapy in Neural Trauma and Neurodegenerative Diseases

Recently, many clinical trials have challenged the efficacy of current therapeutics for neurodegenerative diseases such as neuropathic pain after trauma due to their life-threatening side-effects including addictions. Gene Therapy utilizing lentiviral vectors enables sustained and localized expression of genes of interest leading to functional restorations. We aim to deliver specific gene-encoding lentiviral vectors into the injury to reprogram and/or knockdown downstream signaling pathways for the functional regeneration after trauma. Currently, we focus on attenuating the neuropathic pain after SCI by inflammatory responses, employing biomaterials, RNA interference (RNAi), and gene delivery strategies.

Immunoengineering: Employing Nanotechnology to Enhance Immunotherapy

New tools to modulate specific immune cell populations could be a more effective strategy to minimize detrimental immune responses and facilitate novel therapeutic strategies for regenerative medicine. Here, delivered synthetic nanoparticles reprogram certain immune cell populations based on their physicochemical properties and not by an active pharmaceutical ingredient. Nanoparticles will provide a platform that limits acute inflammation and tissue destruction, at a favorable risk-benefit ratio, leading to a pro-regenerative microenvironment that supports regeneration and functional recovery. This platform may have applications to not only trauma but potentially other inflammatory diseases.