The Biomimetics Engineering Lab (BEL) is a highly interdisciplinary entity that hosts basic and advanced equipment used for research at the interface of biology, chemistry and engineering. The lab has a cell culture facility that enables standard cell culture procedures, in addition to equipment used for cell analysis including a fluorescent microscope and microplate reader among others. The lab has a new single-cell manipulation and bioprinting device (FluidFM BOT, Cytosurge AG) which is only available in a few institutions worldwide. The lab has tools for surface science research including the Quartz Crystal Microbalance with Dissipation Monitoring (QCM-D, QSense, Sweden) known to be the most advanced and top of the line in the market for surface science applications.
The lab also possesses tools for material synthesis and testing such as the Instron Mechanical Tester which is also the top of the line for biomaterials testing applications. In addition to these major equipment the lab has all the necessary small equipment to run its research independently and has strong ties with the faculty of Medicine and Faculty of Arts and Sciences for advanced investigations.
Our research covers the fields of tissue engineering, drug delivery, lab-on-a-chip, biosensing, biomechanics and neurosciences. We briefly discuss some areas currently under investigation below:
Engineering Cellular Niches
We create biomimetic microenvironments for basic and applied investigations. We engineer 2-dimensional cell culture systems by coating substrates with naturally-occurring extra-cellular matrix molecules. We also synthesize sulfated molecules (glycosaminoglycan mimetics) with controlled structures to investigate the role of sulfation on growth factor binding and subsequent cell behavior. The sulfated molecules support stemness of stem cells and growth of neurons among other cells. These matrices are also used for 3D culturing of various cells including primary chondrocytes, neurons and stem cells.
We are investigating the role of sulfation patterns on cancer development in the lung, breast and brain using biomimetic materials chemically synthesized to have specific sulfation degrees.
Functional injectable biomaterials
We work on the design of biofunctional hydrogels containing protein mimetic peptide sequences (e.g. collagen, elastin, fibronectin and laminin). We encapsulate relevant cells (stem cells, chondrocytes, smooth muscle cells) and investigate effects of physiological mechanical and oxygen tension stimuli on the designed hydrogels.
We have previously engineered micro-robots for drug and gene delivery applications. We developed the first microdevice which allows remote-controlled drug and gene delivery to single cells using an external magnetic field. We are currently working on adopting similar techniques to deliver siRNA and novel developed therapeutics in vitro and in vivo.
We aim to create in vitro directional neural networks by first, engineering micropatterns of biomimetic biomaterials utilizing an advanced bioprinting technology available at AUB (FluidFM®, Cytosurge, Switzerland) and second, depositing single neurons on specific locations of the micropatterns that will enforce axonal growth in a directional manner using established single-cell manipulation tools available in the FluidFM. These cultured neurons can be used for directly recording intracellularly, in whole-cell mode.
To get in touch and know more about our activities kindly contact:
Dr. Rami Mhanna