Dr. Elda Hegmann

“Liquid Crystal Elastomers as Inks for 3D Printing"

SEM images of the LCE-based model tissue display fine microvessel struts as well as larger vascular struts.

Figure 1: SEM images of the LCE-based model tissue display fine microvessel struts as well as larger vascular struts.

Our group focus is on the development of biocompatible, biodegradable, and dynamic 3D scaffold materials for spatial in vitro systems to simulate and study development of tissues, and the complex interplay between cells. Our research impacts molecular/cellular research providing new ways to understand and provide fundamental knowledge on how local microenvironments affect, for example, cell structure and protein expression.

The first direction focuses on tissue regeneration such as to shorten wound-healing times. Here, the interest of my team is to provide cell-friendly supports and scaffolds in the form of liquid crystal-functionalized elastomers designed for the needs of different types of cells (i.e., stem cells, neurons, and muscle tissue), and tuned according to the cell response observed. Our materials are made to work as bio-inks to allow for 3D printing.

The second direction aims at the development of microneedles/micropillars as biodegradable and effective transdermal drug delivery systems, as well as vesicles/liposomes (based on lyotropic liquid crystal systems) as a means for early detection of diseases and for drug delivery systems. These vesicles behave as sensors (when proteins or antibodies are attached), allowing the targeting of specific diseases or disease states, while simultaneously providing controlled drug delivery/release of desirable therapeutics for in-situ early-treatment.

REU students in Dr. Hegmann's laboratory will acquire hands-on training in the synthesis of liquid crystal functionalized polyester block-co-polymers as inks for 3D printing.

Recent Publications
  1. S. Ustunel, S. Sternbach, M.E. Prévôt, E.J. Freeman, J.A. McDonough, R.J. Clements, E. Hegmann, “3D Co-culturing of human neuroblastoma and human oligodendrocytes, emulating native tissue using 3D porous biodegradable liquid crystal elastomers”, J. Appl. Polym. Sci. 2023, 140 (20), e53883.
  2. M.E. Prévôt, S. Ustunel, G. Freychet, C.R. Webb, M. Zhernenkov, R. Pindak, R.J. Clements, E.Hegmann, “Physical Models from Physical Templates Using Biocompatible Liquid Crystal Elastomers as Morphologically Programmable Inks For 3D Printing”, Macromol. Biosci. 2023, 23, 2200343.
  3. G.A.R. Rohaley, and E. Hegmann, “The importance of structure property relationship for the designing of biomaterials using liquid crystal elastomers”, Mater. Adv., 2022, 3, 5725-5734.
  4. M.E. Prévôt, S. Ustunel, B.M. Yavitt, G. Freychet, C.R. Webb, M. Zhernenkov, E. Hegmann*, and R. Pindak*, “Synchrotron Microbeam Diffraction Studies on the Alignment Within 3D Printed Smectic-A Liquid Crystal Elastomer Filaments During Extrusion”, Crystals 2021, 11(5), 523.
  5. S. Ustunel, M.E. Prévôt, G.A.R. Rohaley, C.R. Webb, B. Yavitt, G. Freychet, M. Zhernenkov, R. Pindak, E. Schaible, C. Zhu, T. Hegmann, R.J. Clements,* and E. Hegmann*, “Mechanically tunable Elastomer and Cellulose Nanocrystal composites as Scaffolds for In vitro Cell Studies”, Mater. Adv. 2021, 2, 464- 476.
  6. S. Ustunel, M.E. Prévôt, R.J. Clements,* and E. Hegmann*, “Cradle-to-Cradle: Designing Biomaterials to Fit as Truly Biomimetic Cell Scaffolds – A Review”, Liquid Crystals Today, 2020, 29:3, 40-52.
  7. M.E. Prévôt, H. Andro, S.L.M. Alexander, S. Ustunel, C. Zhu, Z. Nikolov, S.T. Rafferty, M.T. Brannum, B. Kinsel, L.T.J. Korley, E.J. Freeman, J.A. McDonough, R.J. Clements and E. Hegmann. Liquid crystal elastomer foams with elastic properties specifically engineered as biodegradable brain tissue scaffolds. Soft Matter 14, 354-360 (2018).
  8. M.E. Prévôt, L.E. Bergquist, A.Sharma, T. Mori, Y. Gao, T. Bera, C. Zhu, M.T. Leslie, R. Cukelj, L.T.J. Korley, E.J. Freeman, J.A. McDonough, R.J. Clements, and E. Hegmann. New developments in 3D liquid crystal elastomers scaffolds for tissue engineering: from physical template to responsive substrate. Proc. of SPIE Vol:10361, 103610T 1-11 (2017).
  9. M.E. Prévôt, and E. Hegmann. From Biomaterial, Biomimetic, and Polymer to Biodegradable and Biocompatible Liquid Crystal Elastomer Cell Scaffolds. Chapter 1 in Advances in Bioinspired and Biomedical Materials, Vol. 2, ACS 1253: 3-45 (2017).
  10. A. Sharma, T. Mori, C.J. Mahnen, H.R. Everson, M.T. Leslie, A.d. Nielsen, L. Lussier, C. Zhu, C. Malcuit, T. Hegmann, J.A. McDonough, E.J. Freeman, L.T.J. Korley, R.J. Clements, and E. Hegmann. Biocompatible liquid crystal elastomers, mechanical properties and cellular response. Macromol. Biosci. 17, 1600278 (2017).