The Robotics Institute
RI | Seminar | May 29

Robotics Institute Seminar, May 29
Time and Place | Seminar Abstract | Speaker Biography | Speaker Appointments

Health- and Defense-Related Biomaterial Design

Alan Russell

Univ. of Pittsburgh

Time and Place

1305 Newell-Simon Hall
Refreshments 3:15 pm
Talk 3:30 pm


Regenerative medicine is the utilization of therapeutic techniques to reestablish function lost in diseased or damaged tissues or organs, or to provide tissue/organ function that is lacking due to congenital abnormalities.  Regenerative medicine utilizes a variety of approaches to address tissue/organ insufficiency including the combination of temporary scaffolds with cellular components (such as in tissue engineering).  Tissue engineering requires the rational design of biomaterials.  Relevant materials for tissue engineering will also have a significant impact on other areas that require biomaterial innovation, such as defense technologies.  This presentation will summarize the broad challenges which face the tissue engineering community and focus on the development of protein-containing bioplastics as an example of how to address the challenges.  We will describe how enzymes could be incorporated into polyurethanes and other films.  We will describe early results on the retention of activity of relevant enzymes in the films.  The enzymes selected for incorporation are mainly reactive on chemical threat agents.  To enable the films to respond to biological agents or be used in tissue engineering, the incorporation of active antibodies or other bioactive molecules will be necessary.  We will describe early results on antibody incorporation in polyurethanes and on the binding of cells to biopolyurethanes.  The materials described demonstrate that developing a basic understanding of how to stabilize proteins in a plastic matrix can impact both health and defense.

Speaker Biography

Dr. Alan J. Russell is Director of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine and Professor of Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine/UPMC Health System.  He is also a Professor of Chemical Engineering and of Bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh School of Engineering and is the Executive Director of the Pittsburgh Tissue Engineering Initiative (PTEI).  Dr. Russell received his baccalaureate degree in Biochemistry and Applied Molecular Biology from the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (United Kingdom) in 1984 and his doctorate in Biological Chemistry from Imperial College, the University of London, in 1987. 

The mission of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine is to be the premier facility for clinical care, teaching, and research in the broad arena of regenerative medicine.  MIRM is developing cutting-edge research at the University of Pittsburgh and innovative clinical programs within the UPMC Health System in areas such as organ and tissue engineering, artificial organs, and cellular and regenerative therapies.  PTEI exists to propel Pittsburgh and the Southwestern Pennsylvania region to preeminence in tissue engineering through support of university-based research and education, and by pairing tissue engineering scientists with technology transfer opportunities to help them build our regional biotechnology enterprise.

Dr. Russellís research has focused on the symbiotic interface between enzymes and materials, specifically biotechnological chemical weapon defense; the study of proteins in extreme environments; biocatalytic polymer synthesis; and the development of rational approaches to biomaterial syntheses for tissue engineering.  His seminal work has been performed in the area of the decontamination of chemical weapons using enzymes.  Collaborating with U.S. Army scientists, these approaches are expanding the possible defenses against chemical weapons

The Robotics Institute is part of the School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University.