Gaharwar awarded National Science Foundation grant to design next generation of inks for 3-D bioprinting

GaharwarDr. Akhilesh K. Gaharwar, an assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Texas A&M University, has been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant for his work, “3-D Bioprinting of Complex Tissue Structures Using Nanoengineered Ionic-Covalent Entanglement (NICE) Bioinks.” The $300,000 grant funded by the Biomedical Engineering program in the Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental and Transport Systems (CBET), will allow Gaharwar to integrate research, education and outreach programs. These programs will focus on designing a novel family of NICE bioinks for 3-D printing.

Engineering complex tissues that can mimic, augment or replace native tissue functions holds enormous potential for treating organ failures resulting from injuries, aging and diseases. Three-dimensional bioprinting is an emerging approach for the rapid fabrication of complex tissue structures using cell-loaded hydrogels, called bioinks. However, 3-D bioprinting has hit a bottleneck in progress due to the lack of suitable bioinks that are printable and can guide cell functions.

“This work will elucidate key fundamental properties of ionic covalent entanglement networks loaded with unique, 2-D nanoparticles, leading to transformative technology for 3-D bioprinting,” said Gaharwar. “The work will lead to a novel platform technology to selectively control and pattern cell behavior and will have broad scientific impact on human health; specifically, regenerative engineering and therapeutic delivery.”

The development of a new family of bioinks from this research will spur growth in biofabrication, leading to a positive impact on society and the national economy. The integrated multidisciplinary research platform will provide a unique environment to attract, motivate and retain students, particularly underrepresented groups, in science and engineering education.

This NSF award will provide educational and outreach opportunities through a diverse array of K-12 activities including developing educational screencasts, teacher training, engaging local schools in after-school programs and hosting high school students for research. Specifically, a range of educational and research screencasts will be developed to engage and promote awareness about nanomaterials, and bioprinting. In addition, undergraduate and graduate students will be trained to face multidisciplinary real-world engineering challenges.

Gaharwar received his doctoral degree in biomedical engineering from Purdue University in 2011 and completed his postdoctoral training at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University.

The goal of his lab is to understand the interactions of cell-nanomaterials interactions and to develop nanoengineered strategies for modulating stem cell behavior for the repair and regeneration of damaged tissue. In particular, his lab is leveraging principles from materials science, stem cell biology, high throughput computational genomics and additive biomanufacturing to design nanoengineered biomaterials, with wide-ranging applications in the field of regenerative medicine. See more details at “Inspired Nanomaterials and Tissue Engineering Laboratory.”