Professor Newell Washburn receives a 3M Nontenured Faculty Award-Department of Materials Science and Engineering - Carnegie Mellon University

Professor Newell Washburn receives a 3M Nontenured Faculty Award

Newell Washburn, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Biomedical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering has received a 3M Nontenured Faculty Award to support his basic research on biointeractive polymers for wound healing. His was one of 27 awards for basic research in the physical and/or biological sciences selected by 3M researchers. The award provides unrestricted funds for his research.

Washburn's group develops biomimetic matrices for tissue engineering. He uses spectroscopic methods to study therapeutically effective biological materials such as demineralized bone matrix, a biological material obtained from cadavers that is used to treat patients with damaged bone tissue. Demineralized bone matrix is rich in proteins known as growth factors as well as proteins that regulate the activity of these growth factors. Understanding the dynamic interactions of growth factors with demineralized bone matrix is key to creating a successful synthetic matrix.

Washburn's research centers on performing physical measurements, including fluorescence correlation spectroscopy, to measure the dynamics of growth factors as they interact with the demineralized bone matrix. His group measures the dynamics of powerful signaling molecules in these materials. With these measurements as design criteria, they then synthesize functional equivalents incorporating novel ligands for tuning interactions between signaling molecules and engineered matrices. Finally, they screen cellular responses to these complex matrices using combinatorial methods in order to develop a global understanding of the ways in which these matrices can guide cellular responses. These studies are an important first step toward developing a synthetic hydrogel with which growth factors will have similar interactions as they do with demineralized bone matrix. This novel biomimetic approach could lead to the development of synthetic matrices that have similar function as therapeutically effective matrices, such as demineralized bone matrix, without the risks associated with these biological materials.

Professor Washburn is also involved in developing DNA aptamers that target pro-inflammatory cytokines in a collaboration that involves Prof. Bruce Armitage, who also received a 3M Nontenured Faculty Award in 2001.