At the intersection of biomaterials, surface science and medicine
Fabio Variola, Associate Professor, Biomedical Engineering, Cellular and Molecular Medicine, University of Ottawa
In the quest for the next generation of functional biomaterials and new solutions in health-related research, investigators have sought inspiration from nature by developing better performing bio-derived materials (e.g. collagen, chitosan), reproducing naturally occurring micro and nanostructures (e.g. nanoporosity of collagen-apatite interfaces in bone, ECM nanotopography) and devising strategies that mimic naturally occurring phenomena (e.g. mussel attachment). In this context, our team has employed bio-derived materials and bio-inspired structures towards the creation of platforms and interfaces to investigate and control cellular events. In particular, we successfully reproduced a bioactive nanoporosity on titanium, the gold standard in medicine, by simple chemical and electrochemical methods, capable of positively affecting cell activity providing antibacterial properties. Anodization permitted not only to create semiordered nanotubular surfaces which can be tuned in terms of diameter and spacing, but also a nanometric 3-dimensional hierarchical surface that mimics that of biologically successful life forms such as diatoms. Moreover, we are currently working on understanding the effects on cells of poly(dopamine), an adhesive polymer derived from mussels, as a multifunctional layer for direct cueing to cells. In parallel, our team has also contributed to the development of collagen- and chitosan-based materials for applications ranging from cardiac and neuronal tissue engineering to synthetic blood vessels and drug delivery platforms.