Proteins are the engines of life that have the most dynamic and diverse part in the body, such as biochemical catalysis, signal transduction, cellular scaffolding construction, gene regulation and transportation of molecules within cells or organs. My Ph.D. dissertation at UCLA was mainly devoted to exploring new intracellular protein delivery platforms and next-generation protein patterning techniques for both therapeutics and diagnostics. For the “intracellular protein delivery” theme, we have developed a novel delivery platform via single-protein nanocapsules, consisting of a protein core and a thin cellular permeable polymeric shell formed by in situ interfacial polymerization. Degradation of the shell upon entry into the cell with specific protease activity, redox environment or light treatment, leads to release of the active protein cargo in a bio-inspired fashion. For the “protein-patterning” theme, we have invented “magnetic electric lithography”, a new nanolithography method endowed with both high resolution and high throughput for generating heterogeneous nanopatterns over large area. We have also conceived another patterning strategy named “enzyme-assisted photolithography”, which can simultaneously form topographical features and bioconjugation sites into hydrogel based bio-scaffolds. Integrated with microfluidic devices, a high-throughput cellular detection and separation platform has been demonstrated. My postdoctoral training in Prof. Langer’s lab at MIT was focused on engineering synthetic pancreas-like devices for Type 1 diabetes mellitus treatment through the intelligent delivery of insulin. We have explored different approaches to achieve desired release patterns upon fluctuation of glucose levels. I have also collaborated with researchers on the development of nano-vehicles for siRNA delivery as well as smart scaffolds for regenerative medicine. My long-term research goal is to develop protein-based composites, scaffolds and devices for drug delivery and tissue engineering. Specific aims include tailoring theranostic protein carriers/devices for disease treatment and engineering bio-inspired 3D scaffolds/devices to control stem cell fates for regenerative medicine.
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