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Exploring Structure-Function Relationships in Scaffold Design

The objectives of this module are to teach students about musculoskeletal tissue engineering and structure-function relationships using accessible materials, and to guide students to use the scientific method to test a design-driven hypothesis. Our hands-on activity teaches structure-function relationships through the design of ligament grafts. In this activity, students are presented with various model designs for ligament grafts (e.g. parallel bundles, twisted bundles, braid) and asked to hypothesize the relative strength of these designs. Using string-like candy such as licorice, they build, evaluate the strength of, and compare each design. For strength testing, each candy “ligament” is used to support a bucket into which small weights will be loaded, allowing the failure load of each design to be measured and recorded. Through this activity, students will observe how architecture can affect overall graft mechanical strength. This module won 1st place at the 2015 SFB Biomaterials Education Challenge

Biomaterials Design for Tissue Engineering Through Hydrogels

The objective of this module is to teach the concepts of structure-function relationships and applied biomaterials design through a series of hydrogel manipulation experiments. In this activity, Jell-O is made at three different concentrations to allow students to observe differences in mechanical stiffness and polymer cross-linking is used to explain the differing mechanical properties of the hydrogels. This observation is tied into the field of tissue engineering, i.e. how scientists modify materials to build scaffolds for tissue regeneration. Plant seeds are then incorporated into the hydrogels to demonstrate cell-seeded scaffolds. Additionally, a model organ with a defect to be repaired is introduced. Students are instructed to repair the defect using the hydrogel and will then critique their solution. A brief introduction to patterning closes the module. Students design patterns on paper to make stamps from aluminum foil to pattern hydrogels. These patterned structures are tied to more complex biomaterials design using photolithography and nanotechnology to replicate tissue structure. This module won 3rd place at the 2013 SFB Biomaterials Education Challenge

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