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NSF awards Stevens team $1 million for research on smart, bacteria-repellent nanohydrogels

HOBOKEN, N.J. -- The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded an interdisciplinary team of five Stevens Institute of Technology researchers a four-year, $1 million grant to develop smart,?self-assembling nano-biomaterials that can control whether bacteria will adhere to synthetic surfaces, allowing for carefully targeted control over microscopic processes that occur within the human body.

Technically speaking, this project centers on the design and self-assembly of nanohydrogels that will either be adhesive to cells or repulsive to cells,?said Professor Matthew Libera, Principal Investigator on the project, which was funded under the umbrella of the NSFs Nanoscale Interdisciplinary Research Teams (NIRT) initiative. "We are making families of different polymer nanoparticles and developing new ways to coat these onto surfaces.?/P>

The real challenge is to create so-called differentially adhesive surfaces, ones that will be adhesive to certain types of cells in the body but which will simultaneously repel bacteria.,?said Libera. Practically speaking, successful development of these materials will enable us to create biomedical implants that are more resistant to infection and, hence, more able to do the job for which they were designed.?

Joining Libera as Co-Investigators in the NIRT project are Professor Woo Lee, who directs the New Jersey Center for MicroChemical Systems at Stevens; Professor Svetlana Sukhishvili of Stevens?Department of Chemistry & Chemical Biology; Professor Hongjun Wang of Stevens?Department of Chemical, Biomedical & Materials Engineering; and Mercedes McKay of Stevens?Center for Innovation in Engineering & Science Education, a highly respected K-12 outreach organization, which will bring ideas and activities related to infection control and biomaterials into high-school chemistry and biology curricula as part of the NIRT project. This is a great group of people with impressive abilities,?said Libera, and they bring to the NIRT project a substantial portfolio of research related to developing infection-resistant biomaterials and new ways to study how infection occurs on synthetic surfaces.?/P>

The Stevens NIRT team will hold a kick-off meeting and presentation about the research project this coming Monday, Nov. 5, 3:15 p.m., in the Stevens Board Room, 14th Floor of the Wesley J. Howe Center (main administration building); they will be joined by Stevens Dean of Engineering & Science, Michael Bruno, as well as Stryker Orthopaedics representatives Joseph Zitelli and Marc Long. Stryker has partnered with Stevens to provide support through board participation and internship opportunities for students at its manufacturing and corporate facility in Mahwah, N.J.

Contact: Patrick A. Berzinski
Stevens Institute of Technology

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