Dr. Kizilel’s research interests include the synthesis and characterization of biomaterials that can be used for tissue engineering, drug delivery, and biosensing applications. In our approach, we exploit photopolymerization techniques to combine both experimental techniques with computational modeling in order to optimally design biofunctional polymeric hydrogel scaffolds that can enhance cell growth, viability and function for various clinical applications. We are particularly interested in immunoisolating insulin secreting islets within biofunctional polymers and understanding what happens to islet function over time when assembled within three-dimensional micro or nanoenvironments. Our methods include surface initiated photopolymerization of biofunctional PEG on surfaces, specifically islets, as well as layer-by-layer self assembly of nanothin bioactive PEG or Tregulatory-cell environments that dynamically promote islet function, viability and/or provide local immunoisolation.

In order for biofunctional hydrogels to induce specific cellular functions such as enhanced function and viability, various classes of biological ligands can be covalently immobilized within the scaffold in the form of photopolymerizable macromers. In order to quantify the level of ligand incorporation we develop mathematical models for hydrogel formation and predict the physical properties and the composition of biological signal incorporation within the hydrogels. We use these models as a guide to optimize cell-scaffold interactions so that the biological effect of ligand incorporation on islet response can be functionally tested in vitro and in vivo.