Room 012, Brauer Hall
Silviya Zustaik, PhD
Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering
Saint Louis University
Hydrogels for Drug Screening and Protein Delivery Applications
Dr. Zustiak's primary research interests are in hydrogel biomaterials with emphasis on developing novel biomaterials as cell scaffolds, drug delivery devices and drug screening platforms. This presentation will focus on two main applications of hydrogels pursued by our laboratory - developing tumor spheroid models for drug screening applications and designing injectable hydrogels for the delivery of a multicomponent protein mixture.
We focus on multicellular tumor spheroids to model avascular tumors, with the goal of providing a means for predictive high-throughput drug screening to enable breakthrough cancer therapies. I will present the development of a templated hydrogel, which enabled us to grow uniform spheroid cultures directly inside a hydrogel matrix of well-defined properties. This was achieved by first fabricating cell-loaded, fast-degradable microspheres via electrospraying or microfluidics. These microspheres were then embedded in a hydrogel matrix, where they degraded, depositing the cells in uniform spheroid openings. Multicellular spheroids with a hypoxic core formed within 7-14 days upon encapsulation. Current research is aimed at comparing the cell transcriptome of matrix-grown and liquid-grown spheroids as well as the differences in spheroid behaviors and drug responses as a function of hydrogel matrix encapsulation and properties.
Dr. Zustiak obtained a BS/MS degree in Bioelectrical Engineering from the Technical University in Sofia, Bulgaria in 2002 and a Ph.D. in Chemical and Biochemical Engineering from the University of Maryland Baltimore County in 2009. She conducted postdoctoral research in biophysics at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. In 2011 she received the NIH Fellows Award for Research Excellence for her work on transport in complex media. Silviya joined the Biomedical Engineering Department at Saint Louis University (SLU) in January 2013. At SLU she was awarded the Outstanding Parks Graduate Faculty Award in 2015 and the SLU Scholarly Works Award for a Junior Faculty in 2017. Dr. Zustiak’s research is highly multidisciplinary, merging the fields of engineering, materials science, biophysics, and biology. Her work has resulted in over 40 peer-reviewed publications, over 150 presentations at national conferences and multiple patent applications.
Organizer / Host: Co-sponsored with the Institute of Materials Science and Engineering and Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science