Graphene Cellular Interfaces

Recent developments in stem cell engineering and regenerative medicine have led to interest in developing different materials as scaffolds to guide cell fate, improve cellular and tissue function, and generate implantable tissue constructs. An ideal candidate requires the material not only be biocompatible, but also to have controllable and interactive interfaces with living cells. Carbon nanomaterials including graphene have recently drawn much attention due to their extraordinary chemical, electrical, and mechanical properties. Graphene, in particular, features functionalizable and electrically tunable surface chemistry, exceptional mechanical robustness, and maximal surface-to-volume ratio. CVD and microfabrication techniques readily allow preparation, submicron patterning, and transfer of graphene to a range of biomaterials, reinforcing graphene’s potential as a tissue engineering scaffold.

2D Graphene substrates have been shown to accelerate and direct the differentiation of mesenchymal and neural stem cells into osteoblasts and neurons, respectively, suggesting in particular the use of graphene as a platform to control stem cell differentiation. 3D graphene has been fabricated as a bulk scaffold for potential use in tissue constructs. With recent advances, our lab aims to integrate graphene with in vitro stem cell engineering, to better understand the mechanisms behind the interactive effects and further develop graphene as a platform for tissue engineering applications. This research is in collaboration with Professor Ying Zheng and Professor Chuck Murry.