Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Biomedical Engineering

First Advisor

Dr. Rebecca L Heise

Second Advisor

Dr. Masahiro Sakagami

Third Advisor

Dr. Laszlo Farkas

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Rene Olivares-Navarrete

Fifth Advisor

Dr. Hu Yang

Sixth Advisor

Dr. Ning Zhang


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) including emphysema is a devastating condition, increasing in prevalence in the US and worldwide. There remains no cure for COPD, rather only symptomatic treatments. Due to unique challenges of the lung, translation of therapies for acute lung injury to target chronic lung diseases like COPD has not been successful. We have been investigating lung derived extracellular matrix (ECM) hydrogels as a novel approach for delivery of cellular therapies to the pulmonary system.

During the course of this work we have developed and characterized a lug derived ECM hydrogel that exhibits “injectability,” allowing cells or dugs to be delivered in a liquid and encapsulated at body temperature. The hydrogel self assembles in <5 minutes and achieves mechanical stiffness similar to other soft tissue ECM hydrogels. The hydrogel can support 3D cell growth and encapsulated cell viability. Encapsulated hMSCs can also still be activated by simulated inflammatory environments. Naïve mouse macrophages exposed to the fully formed gel were not significantly induced to express markers for pro or anti-inflammatory polarized phenotypes, but increased expression for several secreted inflammatory mediators was observed.

We also investigated a novel approach for preparing and solubilizing the isolated ECM proteins, using digestion time as a variable for controlling hydrogel density (interconnectivity), mechanical stiffness, component protein size distribution, and cell behavior on fully formed gels. The potential future impact for the presented research includes optimization for future animal studies, expansion to additional applications, and the development of new derivative materials.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission


Included in

Biomaterials Commons