Research visit: Three-dimensional graphene foam for use in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine

In July 2017 I travelled to the Politecnico di Milano, Italy for two months to work in a Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering research group, developing the three-dimensional graphene foam based biocompatible scaffolds that allow stem cells to regrow, differentiate and proliferate in a 3D microenvironment, as well as facilitate the development of novel regenerative medical treatment to help restore and strengthen lost functionality.

Stem cell culture requires scaffolds to offer microenvironments for stem cell viability and growth of 3D networks, promoting their biostability, survival, integration, enhanced differentiation and synergistic cell control signals. 3D graphene foam is a promising candidate for the tissue engineering field; it has a number of superior physic-chemical features compared to conventional biomaterials, such as mechanical strength and corrosion resistance, while offering a complex structure for cell adhesion and cell network integration.

I worked with Professor Lorenza Draghi to investigate the potential of 3D graphene porous network as stem cell therapy agent, and the bioavailability of graphene in fibroblast, bone marrow and nervous system cell lines.

Preliminarily, it was found that graphene foam supports cell attachment, growth and enhanced cell differentiation states. This study will further the development of advanced 3D graphene platforms for stem cell based therapies. The 3D architecture of graphene could be optimized for biomolecular selectivity and surface biostability, leading to unique interfacial properties not achieved through existing stem cell therapy based approaches.

The visit was an amazing opportunity for me to undertake research in an exciting and active research environment, and allowed me to develop a range of new research skills.