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Elizabeth Kahle Wins BIOMED Student Best Paper Award

March 18, 2022

Elizabeth R. Kahle, PhD Candidate in the School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems (Advisors: L. Han and M. Marcolongo), won the BIOMED Student Best Paper Award for her outstanding work and publication of the paper titled, “Molecular Engineering of Pericellular Microniche via Biomimetic Proteoglycans Modulates Cell Mechanobiology” (Co-authors: E.R. Kahle, B. Han, P. Chandrasekaran, E.R. Phillips, M.K. Mulcahey, X.L. Lu, M.S. Marcolongo, L. Han). The paper was published in the January 2022 edition of the journal ACS Nano (16(1): 1220-1230, doi: 10.1021/acsnano.1c09015).

In the research, biomimetic proteoglycans were synthesized by covalently conjugating glycosaminoglycan (GAG) bristles onto a synthetic polymer core. As a result, these biomimetics recapitulate the polyanionic nature and bottle-brush-like architecture of native proteoglycans, but do not have a protein core that is susceptible to catabolic enzymes. This study showed that when diffused into articular cartilage, these biomimetic proteoglycans strengthen the micromechanics of the immediate cellular micro-niche, and in turn, augment the in situ mechanosensing of residing cells. In doing so, this work established a new minimally invasive approach for improving tissue regenerative and disease intervention by molecularly engineering cell microniche in cartilage and other load-bearing tissues using this class of biomimetic molecules.