ChE Seminar – “Protein Engineering of Multi-functional Biomaterials for Regenerative Medicine” by Dr. Sarah Heilshorn (Stanford University)

Host: Dr. Adrianne Rosales


Stem cell transplantation is a promising therapy for a myriad of debilitating diseases and injuries; however, current expansion and transplantation protocols are inadequate. My lab designs biomaterials to overcome these challenges using biomimetic, protein-engineering technology. By integrating protein science methodologies with simple polymer physics models, we manipulate the polypeptide chain interactions and demonstrate the direct ability to tune the material properties including hydrogel mechanics, cell-adhesion, and biodegradation. These materials have allowed us to identify matrix remodeling as a previously unknown requirement for maintenance of stemness in neural progenitor cells within 3D expansion systems. Through a series of in vitro and in vivo studies, we demonstrate that protein-engineered hydrogels may significantly improve transplanted stem cell retention and regenerative function. Furthermore, many of the lessons learned about designing injectable biomaterials can be extended to design new bio-inks for 3D printing applications. While 3D printing has enormous potential for tissue engineering, few bio-inks are currently available to facilitate the printing of complex, cell-laden constructs. We demonstrate the design of customizable bio-inks that enable the printing of multiple cell types into distinct geometric forms.


Sarah Heilshorn is Associate Professor and Otterson Faculty Scholar in the Materials Science & Engineering Department at Stanford University, with courtesy appointments in Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering. Her laboratory integrates concepts from materials engineering and protein science to design new, bioinspired materials. These materials are being explored for applications in regenerative medicine, 3D bio-printing, and ex vivo human tissue mimics. She has been selected for the US National Science Foundation Career Award and the US National Institute of Health New Innovator Award. She completed her PhD in Chemical Engineering at Caltech and was a postdoctoral scholar in Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California, Berkeley. Prof. Heilshorn is a fervent supporter of diversifying the engineering community and serves in multiple leadership roles to help achieve this goal. She is a Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering and of the Royal Society for Chemistry. She serves as an Associate Editor for Science Advances and is an elected member of the Board of Directors for the Materials Research Society.

Posted on: