The new polymeric materials that we develop provide unique opportunities to tailor materials for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine applications. The group is focussed on applying it’s wide knowledge of the synthesis of novel degradable polymeric materials in combination with the highly efficient, orthogonal and specific chemistries that we use and develop to generate and study ‘designer’ materials that are able to be applied as biomaterials. We have interests in developing these materials to impact a wide range of potential applications from controlled delivery of therapeutic (macro)molecules for the treatment of diseases such as cancer or Alzheimer’s syndrome through to tissue engineering scaffolds and materials for repair of soft tissues such as cartilage and vasculature as well as for tissue reconstruction following surgery. These medical challenges see us work across length scales with the macroscopic properties such as bulk mechanical and degradation properties being one focus as well as designing and controlling micron- and nano-scale assembly and featuring of the materials that we make.
Degradable Hydrogels and Elastomers
Focussing on the macroscopic properties of degradable materials, we are primarily focussed on the design, synthesis and study of hydrogel and elastomeric materials. We focus on creating fully degradable elastomeric materials in order to realise new, useful materials as structural biomaterials for regenerative medicine. Our efforts centre on the derivation of new monomers from natural sources and studying the effects of stereochemistry on materials’ properties. We are also currently investigating the synthesis of mechanically robust hydrogels from natural materials such as chitosan or alginate as well as synthetic materials such as PEG or polycarbonates. These materials are being studied as injectable materials capable of supporting stem cell differentiation to provide novel treatments for tissue regeneration. See below for some of our key publications.
Using stereochemistry to control mechanical properties in thiol-yne click-hydrogels. Macdougall, L.; Perez-Madrigal, M.; Shaw, J.; Worch, J.; Richardson, S.; Sammon, C; Dove, A. P. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. (2021) Accepted Author Manuscript.
Concomitant Control of Mechanical Properties and Degradation in Resorbable Elastomer-Like Materials Using Stereochemistry and Stoichiometry for Soft Tissue Engineering. Wandel, M. B; Bell, C. A.; Yu, J.; Arno, M. C.; Dreger, N. Z.; Hsu, Y.-H.; Pitto-Barry, A.; Worch, J. C.; Dove, A. P.; Becker, M. L. Nature Commun. (2021), 12, 446.
Exploiting the role of nanoparticle shape in enhancing hydrogel adhesive and mechanical properties. Arno, M. C.; Inam, M.; Weems, A. C.; Li, Z.; Binch, A. L. A.; Platt, C. I.; Richardson, S. M.; Hoyland, J. A.; Dove, A. P.; O’Reilly, R. K. Nature Commun. (2020) 11, 1420.
Robust alginate/hyaluronic acid thiol-yne click-hydrogel scaffolds with superior mechanical performance and stability for load-bearing soft tissue engineering. Pérez-Madrigal, M. M.; Shaw, J. E.; Arno, M. C.; Hoyland, J. A.; Richardson, S. M.; Dove, A. P. Biomater. Sci. (2020) 8, 405 — 412.
3D-Printed Tissue Engineering Scaffolds
A very active area in our research is in the area of 3D-printing of degradable polymers for application as tissue engineering scaffolds. We primarily apply microstereolithography techniques and hence our technical focus in this area is centred on the derivation of new photochemical approaches to create polymer ‘inks’ that in turn lead to novel degradable materials with micron-level control over the 3-dimensional structure. We are investigating the development of materials with control over the degradation profile and the effect of microstructure and functionality on cell interactions as well as the introduction of advanced materials properties such as shape memory or site-specific introduction of functional groups to influence biological interactions, achieved through post-fabrication modification. See below for some of our key publications
Stereochemistry-Controlled Mechanical Properties and Degradation in 3D-Printable Photosets. Khalfa, A.; Becker, M. L.; Dove, A. P. J. Am. Chem. Soc. (2021) DOI: 10.1021/jacs.1c06960
4D polycarbonates via stereolithography as scaffolds for soft tissue repair. Weems, A. C.; Arno, M. C.; Yu, W.; Huckstepp, R. T. R.; Dove, A. P. Nature Commun. (2021) 12, 3771.
Customized Fading Scaffolds: Strong Polyorthoester Networks via Thiol‒Ene Cross-linking for Cytocompatible Surface-Eroding Materials in 3D Printing. Herwig, G.; Perez-Madrigal, M. M.; Dove, A. P. Biomacromolecules (2021) 22, 1472 — 1483.
Nano- and Micro-Particles for Delivery
The group has several interests in this area from the creation of degradable polymer microparticles or microgels by emulsion methodologies to the self-assembly of nano- and micro-particles using degradable polymers. We are particularly interested in controlling the morphology and stability of self-assembled particles by taking advantage of the inherent stereochemistry of many of the monomers (and hence polymers) that we study. To this end, we are focussed on using crystallization to drive self-assembly towards the realization of cylindrical nanoparticles, a morphology that is hard to access in a pure form using conventional methods yet which has potentially great advantages in drug delivery and beyond. In turn we are interested in looking at how the shape and size of the particles can affect their performance in biological systems or nanocomposite materials. See below for some of our key publications
Exploiting topology-directed nanoparticle disassembly for triggered drug delivery. Arno, M. C.; Williams, R. J.; Bexis, P.; Pitto-Barry, A. P.; Kirby, N.; Dove, A. P.; O’Reilly, R. K. Biomaterials (2018) 180, 184 — 192.
pH Responsive, Functionalizable Spyrocyclic Polycarbonate: A Versatile Platform for Biocompatible Nanoparticles. Arno, M. C.; Brannigan, R. P.; Policastro, G. M.; Becker, M. L.; Dove, A. P. Biomacromolecules (2018) 19, 3427 — 3434.
1D vs. 2D shape selectivity in the crystallization-driven self-assembly of polylactide block copolymers. Inam, M.; Cambridge, G.; Pitto-Barry, A.; Laker, Z. P. L.; Wilson, N. R.; Mathers, R. T.; Dove, A. P.; O’Reilly, R. K. Chem. Sci. (2017) 8, 4223 — 4230.