Haley Barnett

Date of Award

Spring 5-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Molecular Science and Nanotechnology

First Advisor

Mary Caldorera-Moore


The field of tissue engineering has developed to try and find an alternative approach to treat lost or damaged tissue. The field of tissue regeneration aims to develop tissue scaffolds composed of biomaterials, a cell source, and appropriate biochemical/phsysiochemical stimuli to replace current therapies. Stem cells offer great promise due to their self-renewal capabilities and their numerous differentiation possibilities. However, stem cells are extremely sensitive to their external environment which presents a challenge when culturing them on biomaterials. Surface elasticity, topography, surface chemistry, and exposure to biomolecules all represent environmental stimuli that could affect stem cell behavior. This research aims to help bridge the gap currently associated with tissue engineering by gaining a better understanding of how these biomaterial properties influence stem cell fate. A tailorable poly(ethylene glycol) dimethacrylate (PEGDMA) hydrogel will be utilized along with adult stem cells. It is hypothesized that PEGDMA hydrogels that have an elasticity, architecture, and surface chemistry more closely mimicking the extracellular matrix of the natural tissue environment, will enhance stem cell differentiation towards a desired cell lineage (i.e. bone, muscle, etc.). The project will look at different extracellular cues of a PEGDMA hydrogel biomaterial and analyze how they affect stem cell differentiation. Through a better understanding of cell-environment interactions the research from this project will help lead to the development of a tailorable tissue scaffold for tissue regeneration purposes that can be manufactured on a large scale.