Ever wonder what it’s really like to do research as a biomedical engineering undergraduate student? Check our Amelito Dalusong, Jr. who recently completed a summer STAR Scholarship. Learn how he approached everything from creating a new biomaterial to testing wound regeneration abilities.
Amelito Dalusong, Jr.
BS Student, Biomedical Engineering
Research Lab: Biomaterials and Regenerative Medicince Lab
My name is Amelito Dalusong, Jr. I'm in the Drexel School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems.
What was your STAR Project?
My project here is about designing and characterizing porous gelatin methacrylate hydrogels for biomaterial wound regeneration.
Does this address an unmet medical need?
One of the big things that US medical paitents face today are chronic wounds, and chronic wounds are modulated by these immune cells called macrophages. That's the focus of Spiller lab. My mentor was the PI, Dr. Kara Spiller.
Macrophages transition between phenotypes called M1 and M2 and they regulate wound healing. Disregulation can cause chronic wounds or even fibrosis. So, biomaterial therapies are employed to modulate these phenotypes so they transition properly in order to heal properly, as well.
How do you help heal wounds properly?
One of the designs of biomaterials in order to help with the effectiveness of modulating phenotypes is the physical property of the biomaterial itself.
There are other methods like drug delivery or composition of the biomaterial, but I wanted to do a more non-drug approach so I created a porous biomaterial.
Porous scaffolds have been known to incite tissue regeneration and cell growth on them which helps regenerate tissue, as well. Thats what I did. According to research that I read, there were synthetic hydrogels that were made that were porous that helped illicit a little bit macrophage behavior. But, there werent that many naturally derived hydrogels and so that was my focus for gelatin methacrylate.
This sort of started out as an experiment with my PhD student mentor, but there was a certain inconclusivity with it. So, it was sort of put onto me to make a porous hydrogel because her hydrogel was giving inconclusive results.
They thought that maybe when you compare it to the scaffold thats supposed to give the same results–it's porous. Maybe thats thats the thing thats changing it.
So, they gave it to me to design a porous hydrogel and characterize it. I characterized it with light microscopy using ImageJ analysis. I also did some oil tests to see for interconnectedness.
Results show my pores werent interconnected and that the pore distribution was very similar between 11 percent air integration and 20 percent air integration.
By the way, my method of creating porous hydrogel was sort of using a syringing method where I syringed back and forth the gelatin methacrylate, air, and phosphor buffered saline to create these porous hydrogels.
What I found in pore frequency and pore distribution was that the size of the pores were very similar in terms of distribution, but the difference that was very comparative to the two results was their frequency.
The 20 percent air integration had about 80 more pores than the 11 percent air integration.
What are the next steps?
Moving forward, what I'd like to do is to run a PCR to test for macrophage behavior.
A PCR would be–what I do is I seed cells onto the hydrogels. M0 macrophages are the sort of initial macrophages that turn into the special phenotypes. I seed those M0 macrophages onto the hydrogels, and then I wait 3 days and then I lysate.
Lysate means to break down the cells. Then we do an analysis on the gene expression. So we analyze the genes and then its these genes that help dictate whether the phenotypes are M1 or M2.
What drew you to the STAR program?
Well I had an info session. I didn't really know much about the STAR program. When I applied to Drexel I did see it in the application, but I didnt really think much about it so I didn't apply.
Then I talked to a couple upper classmen and they were like, "Yea, I did the STAR program. It's great! I learned so much in research."
Where I come from, I didn't have that much experience with research. I'm from an island in the pacific called Saipan. It's 7,000 miles away.
The reasons why I wanted to get into biomedical engineering in the first place was because my parents wanted me to be a doctor. But, I wanted solutions that I knew from deep down and I knew research was that place to go.
So, I thought of biomedical engineering and because I didn't have that much experience I chose drexel due to the co-op program. I wanted to do research so let me check up on the STAR projects. I applied and I got it.