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Erika Merschrod

Erika F. Merschrod S. -- Research


Biomedical Materials

Nature presents us with materials showing a remarkable variety of physical, chemical and biological properties. These biomaterials achieve their highly specialized properties through hierarchical assembly involving structural elements at different length scales, from the nanoscale up to the macroscale. Bone is an excellent example of a hierarchical composite biomaterial. It combines both ``hard'' (mineral) and ``soft'' (proteinaceous) components to produce the appropriate mechanical properties required of this structural material: namely, to withstand stresses while minimizing weight. Bones also serve important metabolic and adhesive functions, providing important ions to the organism as well as a bioactive substrate for cell and tissue growth.

There are many strategies in designing bioactive and biocompatible materials:
  • promote or resist incorporation by biological system?
  • replace natural tissue or stimulate natural tissue growth?
  • ``biomimetic'': copy components, structure, process or outcomes?
These approaches can all be useful, depending on the application. And they all present interesting scientific challenges, regardless of the application! A few projects on the go:

Nanomechanical mapping of natural tissue

Nanomechanical mapping is providing new insights into structure, interfaces and interphases in natural tissue. We are developing new tools for measuring mechanical properties in soft thin films and applying these methods to mapping properties of various layers in the eye, in collaboration with Prof. R. Gendron (MUN Medicine). In addition to a better understanding of normal tissue, we are also identifying mechanical signatures of disease such as effects of hyperosmolarity (with Profs. Gendron and Driedzic (Ocean Sciences)).

Artificial tissue scaffolds

Artificial tissue scaffolds, particularly those which can be seeded with a patient's own cells, provide repair options for tissue damage which address issues of rejection and scarcity found with tissue donation. (Another way to address problems with scarcity is to become a donor! More information:

Artificial cornea: with Profs. R. Gendron and H. Paradis (MUN Medicine), K. Poduska (MUN Physics). Gendron, R.; Kumar, R.M.; Helene Paradis, H.; Martin, D.; Ho, N.; Gardiner, D.; Merschrod S., E.F.; Poduska, K.M. "Controlled cell proliferation on an electrochemically engineered collagen scaffold" Macromol. Biosci. 12 360-366 (2012) DOI: 10.1002/mabi.201100341

Osteogenic scaffolds: with Profs. L. A. McDuffee (Atlantic Veterinary College, UPEI) and K. Poduska (MUN Physics). Nino-Fong, R.; McDuffee, L.A.; Esparza Gonzalez, B.P.; Kumar, M.R.; Merschrod S., E.F.; Poduska, K.M. "Scaffold Effects on Osteogenic Differentiation of Equine Mesenchymal Stem Cells: An In Vitro Comparative Study" Macromol. Biosci. 13 348-355 (2013) DOI: 10.1002/mabi.201200355

Cell culture matrices

Cell studies in vitro require a suitable biological (biochemical, biomechanical) environment which is different for different cell lines. A well-designed cell culture matrix provides the necessary cues for adhesion, orientation, differentiation, etc. In collaboration with biomedical colleages, we are identifying key structural (topographical and mechanical) features linked to particular bioresponse. We are always interested in learning about new cell lines!

Adipocytes and cancer cells: with Prof. S. Christian (MUN Biochemistry) and Prof. A. Viloria-Petit (Ontario Veterinary College, Guelph).

neuron axon regeneration: with Prof. K. Mearow (MUN Medicine).

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