Date of Award

Spring 2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Chemical Engineering


Heather Sheardown




Collagen crosslinking with a polypropyleneimine octaamine dendrimers, via carbodiimide chemistry, was further exploited to demonstrate the ability of this technology for various tissue engineering strategies, including tissue engineered corneal equivalents (TECE) and blood-contacting biomaterials. In addition, modification with extracellular matrix components and other biomimetic molecules may enhance tissue-host interactions for greater in vivo compatibility.

First, the efficacy of the dendrimer crosslinking technology was further validated with commercially available collagen-based materials, from bovine or human sources (Chapter 4: Paper 1), as determined via transmittance, water uptake, differential scanning calorimetry, collagenase stability and in vitro cell compatibility. Despite gel formation, the matrix integrity was compromised with collagen-based materials manufactured under acidic conditions and purified via freeze-drying.

To continue the theme of dendrimer crosslinked collagen gels as TECE materials, growth factor incorporation was investigated with epidermal growth factor (EGF) and heparin-binding EGF (HB-EGF), as a method for improving device epithelialization and subsequent host integration. However, given the short half lives of these growth factors, an effective growth factor delivery system is necessary to protect growth factor bioactivity. As heparan sulphate proteoglycans sequester and release heparin-binding growth factors in vivo, the use of heparinized dendrimer crosslinked collagen (CHG) gels for HB-EGF delivery would provide prolonged, controlled delivery, while maintaining growth factor effectiveness (Chapter 5: Paper 2). HB-EGF release was prolonged and capable of inducing human cornea epithelial cell (HCEC) proliferation. Thus, HB-EGF delivery from CHG gels could aid in TECE device retention through enhanced device-host integration via epithelialization.

Alternatively, tethering EGF or HB-EGF to dendrimer crosslinked collagen (CG) gels could also supply growth factor stimulation in a manner that maintains bioactivity, while stimulating growth factor receptors continually with minute concentrations (Chapter 6: Paper 3). Growth factor uptake and bioactivity was assessed with radiolabeled growth factor and through in vitro epithelial cell culture, respectively. Surface-modification of CG gels with growth factors demonstrated greater bioactivity, compared to growth factor bulk-modification of CG gels.

Finally, dendrimer crosslinked collagen gels, with pre-activated heparin (PH gels) were investigated as a tissue engineered blood-contacting biomaterial (Chapter 7: Paper 4), as we hypothesized that biomaterial induced coagulation is not only influenced by an anticoagulant surface, but also by the underlying material and that improved blood-biomaterial interactions may be achieved by utilizing a natural polymer that emulates biomimetic properties. Pre-activation of heparin was utilized to increase heparin gel content, while antithrombotic properties were evaluated via antithrombin and fibrinogen adsorption and plasma recalcification times. PH gels had increased heparinization, but extensive crosslinking compromised antithrombin-heparin interactions, compared to CHG gels. CHG gels demonstrated improved antithrombotic properties and further evaluation of these gels for blood-contacting applications is warranted.

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