Optical spectroscopy and imaging in tissue engineering

Developing non-invasive, quantitative, and real-time characterization techniques to assess the function of biomaterials is of great importance in biomaterial research and tissue engineering. Such a technique would be useful for quality control or to monitor changes in mechanical properties of polymers over time in a non-perturbing manner. Traditionally, mechanical tests and molecular weight measurement are commonly used to characterize polymer properties. However, these techniques are destructive, complicated, expensive and time-consuming and do not allow in situ characterization of insoluble crosslinked polymer network which arouses the significant interest in the tissue engineering applications as the elastomeric polymeric materials.

We are developing an array of novel optical techniques based on elastic light scattering that enable non-invasive assessment of the mechanical, structural and functional properties of elastomeric materials. Our approach is to obtain structural information from the original solid state polymer samples in a non-perturbing way at the length scales ranging from nanometers to microns and to predict the ultimate mechanical properties of the material including tensile strength of the polymer, its Young's modulus, and molecular weight.

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Backman's Biophotonics Laboratory at Northwestern University

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