Document Type


Date of Degree

Fall 2014

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Chemical and Biochemical Engineering

First Advisor

Guymon, C. Allan

First Committee Member

Salem, Aliasger K.

Second Committee Member

Tucker, Budd A.

Third Committee Member

Jessop, Julie L.P.

Fourth Committee Member

Fiegel, Jennifer

Fifth Committee Member

Nuxoll, Eric E.


Although millions of individuals worldwide are affected by blinding retinal degenerative diseases, most have very few options for treatment and no hope for vision restoration. Induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) replacement therapies represent a promising treatment option, but their effectiveness is limited by an overall lack of physical support for injected cells. Stem cell scaffolds can be used to provide this support by serving as an attachment platform for cells before, during, and after implantation. Thus, the design of polymer scaffolds with appropriate biochemistry, mechanical properties, and morphology is a critical step toward developing feasible stem cell therapies for blinding eye diseases. In this work, we aim to design a regenerative scaffold for the retina and determine the interplay among these three key design parameters. First, the feasibility of using a synthetic scaffold to grow and differentiate iPSCs to neural progenitor cells is demonstrated. The porous and degradable poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) scaffolds employed were able to support a greater density of differentiating iPSCS than traditional tissue culture plastic. Additionally, the power of chitosan, a naturally occurring polymer, to overcome the toxic effects of copper nanoparticles is described. For two different cell types, various doses, and several time points, chitosan coated copper nanoparticles were significantly less toxic than non-coated particles. The mechanical properties of the human retina and the effects of aging and disease were also estimated using measurements of compressive modulus in animal models. In order to reach a range similar to native tissue, polymer mechanical properties were controlled using cross-linking density and surfactant templating. The influence of morphology was studied by inducing polymer structure changes via surfactant templating. Morphology significantly influenced water uptake and compressive modulus for both cross-linked poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) and cross-linked chitosan hydrogels. Surfactant templating did not negatively affect the biocompatibility of PEG hydrogels and slightly improved the ability of chitosan hydrogels to support the growth and differentiation of iPSCs. Overall we have demonstrated the ability to tune polymer structure, mechanical properties, and biochemistry. These results add to the growing body of research aimed to understand and control cell/material interactions for biomaterial optimization.


Chitosan, Photopolymerization, Regenerative Medicine, Tissue Engineering


xv, 181 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 153-181).


Copyright 2014 Kristan Sorenson Worthington