Dr. Kim Jones
Chair, Ontario Network of Women in Engineering, Associate Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering, McMaster University
From biomedical devices to drug delivery to regenerative medicine (tissue engineering), biomaterials are serving increasingly complex roles. Beyond merely providing structure, biomaterials are now integrated as scaffolds or particles that deliver biologically active agents (cells, drugs or antigens) in “combination products”. Thus, the body’s response to the biomaterial will govern the effectiveness of these next-generation applications. I am interested in exploring the causes and effects of the host response to biomaterials in order to guide future design using biology as a framework.
1. Causes of biomaterial-induced inflammation
On a molecular level, what causes inflammation after biomaterial implantation? We have been dissecting the contributions of adsorbed proteins, particle size and patterns associated with the biomaterial itself. We hypothesize that some biomaterials are recognised as pathogen associated molecular patters through receptors of innate immunity. In order to create biologically-relevant design criteria, we must identify the initiators of inflammation.
2. Effects of biomaterial-induced inflammation – adaptive immunity
Activation of innate immunity by biomaterials will alter adaptive immune responses to accompanying antigens or immune-mismatched cells. In tissue engineering, the biomaterial scaffold will influence the rejection response to an allogeneic functional cellular component. We are exploring how and why different biomaterials alter cellular rejection. Ultimately, by engineering biomaterials and cells, we aim to generate tissue-engineered constructs that resist rejection.
Given that most biomaterials activate innate-type responses that are known to guide adaptive immunity, we have also been investigating natural and synthetic polymers as vaccine adjuvants to deliver antigens. By controlling the innate activation and targeting delivery, we aim to rationally design adjuvants that tune immune responses, facilitating vaccination against diseases such as AIDS, malaria and cancer.
3. Effects of biomaterial-induced inflammation – fibrosis
A serious clinical problem after biomaterial implantation is scarring or fibrosis. It can interfere with device function and is likely to retard regeneration in tissue engineering applications. We are curious as to the links between biomaterial-induced inflammation and fibrosis. We have been using tools developed to investigate chronic fibrotic diseases to explore this mechanism.
B.A.Sc. Chemical Engineering, Waterloo (1995)
M.Sc. Biology, Guelph (1998)