The research of Lichun Lu, Ph.D., focuses on developing novel synthetic polymers as scaffolds for tissue engineering and carriers for controlled drug delivery. Dr. Lu's research strives to understand the complex interactions among cells, scaffolds, extracellular matrix molecules, mechanical signals and soluble bioactive factors in order to develop next-generation regenerative medicine therapies for clinical application.
Dr. Lu's Biomaterials and Regenerative Medicine Laboratory studies the effect of material properties, including polymer chemistry, surface characteristics, 3-D morphology, mechanical properties and degradation profiles, on the structural and functional regeneration of missing, damaged or diseased tissues. Dr. Lu works with an outstanding multidisciplinary team of clinicians, polymer chemists, biomedical engineers and biologists to develop new strategies for bone repair, spine fracture risk prediction and treatment, nerve regeneration, and targeted cancer treatment.
- Novel biomaterial engineering. Dr. Lu's laboratory develops biocompatible, biodegradable and in situ crosslinkable hydrogels, hydrophobic polymers, polymer blends and composite biomaterials for a variety of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine applications.
- Advanced scaffold fabrication. 3-D scaffolds fabricated using solid freeform fabrication techniques have controlled internal pore structures and pore interconnectivity, resulting in enhanced cell ingrowth depth. The laboratory is designing processes for temporal and spatial incorporation of cells or biomolecules or both into the scaffolds using 3-D bioprinting.
- Noninvasive prediction and treatment of bone fracture. Finite element analysis models based on quantitative computed tomography scans will be used for noninvasive vertebral body fracture risk prediction under dynamic loading regimes. Preformed, expandable and injectable constructs are being developed for contained and large segmental bone defect repair.
- Functionalized nerve guidance tubes. Using a combinational, biomimetic approach, Dr. Lu's laboratory is developing functionalized and electrically conductive nerve guidance tubes for peripheral nerve regeneration and spinal cord injury.
- Controlled drug delivery. Dr. Lu's laboratory has established microparticle, nanoparticle, microgel, microbubble and composite scaffold systems for controlled delivery of various bioactive molecules, including growth factors, hormones, anti-cancer drugs and antibiotics. Multifunctional carriers for simultaneous targeted delivery of drugs and imaging agents are being developed to allow noninvasive imaging of therapeutic effects.
Significance to patient care
Tissue grafting procedures are frequently required in clinical practice due to trauma, tumor or other diseases. Limited supply of autograft tissue and donor site morbidity can significantly restrict its use. Allograft tissue can lead to graft incorporation issues and pathogen transfer from donor to host. Regenerative medicine approaches based on synthetic biodegradable polymers offer a promising alternative to create completely natural living tissues. The polymer provides temporary structural support to the reconstructed region and will gradually degrade into products that can be metabolized by or excreted from the body as new tissue is formed. Such approach would benefit a wide range of patients needing tissue transplantation procedures.
- Editorial board member, Journal of Medical and Biological Engineering, 2016-present
- Editorial board member, Oncology and Translational Medicine, 2016-present
- Director, Biomaterials and Regenerative Medicine Laboratory, Mayo Clinic, 2015-present
- Editorial board, Journal of Biomedical Materials Research, Part A, 2007-present
- Kappa Delta Elizabeth Winston Lanier Award, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, 2009