Bioengineering Seminar Series

“'Smart' Biodegradable Polymers at Nano- and Micro-scales for Medical Applications"

Thanh Duc Nguyen, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Department of Mechanical Engineering
Department of Biomedical Engineering 
Institute of Materials Science 
University of Connecticut 

The ability to transform safe medical polymers (e.g. the ones used for resorbable surgical sutures) into desired 3D forms/shapes/structures at nano and micro scales with “smart” electrical functions, while sustaining the materials’ excellent biocompatibility and biodegradability, provides significant applications in different biomedical fields, ranging from tissue engineering and controlled drug/vaccine-delivery to medical implanted devices. In this talk, I will first present our recent research works to develop novel single-administration self-boosting vaccine microarray patch which can also be used to deliver other therapeutics like antibodies to replace traditional non-effective, painful, costly and inconvenient hypodermic injections. I will then present our recent works to create biodegradable piezoelectric polymers, which can generate electricity under deformation and vice versa, offering a variety of exciting applications in biodegradable implanted force sensors, bionic self-stimulated tissue scaffolds and medical brain-treatment ultrasound transducers. 

Thanh Duc Nguyen is currently an associate professor of both Mechanical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Connecticut (UConn). He joined UConn since the beginning of 2016 after finishing his postdoctoral fellowship with Robert Langer at MIT. His research is highly interdisciplinary and at the interface of biomedicine, materials and nano/micro-technology. Nguyen invented a platform technology, so-called SEAL (StampEd Assembly of Polymer Layers), to create sophisticated 3D microstructures of safe medical polymers without using any potentially toxic additives, an advantage which can not be achieved by current high-resolution 3D printing. His research group at UConn has adapted and further improved the SEAL method to create a novel self-boosting microarray (MA) vaccine patch which can be applied on the skin at a single time to deliver multiple longitudinal does of thermally stabilized vaccines over a long period, simulating the effect of multiple injections in the traditional prime-boost vaccination regime. The MA patch is not only applicable to different vaccine types (e.g. protein, viral particles, nucleic acid like mRNA etc.) but also other therapeutics like antibodies to treat and prevent infectious diseases caused by pathogens like pneumococcal bacteria, SARS-COV-2 and HIV virus. The other theme of Nguyen research is the field of “biodegradable piezoelectrics” in which his lab pioneered new biodegradable piezoelectric materials which can self-produce electricity under applied force and vice versa. Using different piezo-biomaterials, derived from safe polymers like the ones used for surgical sutures, his lab developed bionic self-stimulated tissue scaffolds, implanted force-sensors and ultrasound transducers to respectively regenerate damaged tissues, monitor vital intra-organ pressures and enable the delivery of medicines through the blood-brain barrier. Nguyen’s works have been published in prestigious journals including Science, Nature Nanotech, Science Translational Medicine, Nature Biomedical Engineering, PNAS etc. He received several awards including the CRS (Controlled Release Society) Transdermal and Mucosal Delivery Focus Group Young Investigator Award (2021), ACell Young Investigator Award (2020), MIT top innovator under 35 for Asia Pacific (2019), NIH Trailblazer Award for Young and Early Investigators (2018), SPIE Rising Researcher Award (2019), Young Investigator Award in Biosciences and Bioengineering of Applied Sciences (2019), and the SME Outstanding Young Manufacturing Engineer Award (2018) etc. 

The Bioengineering Seminar Series is co-hosted by the Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience and the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University, and they are open to all in the bio-community.