Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Chemical Engineering

Committee Chair/Advisor

Dr. Jessica Larsen

Committee Member

Dr. Eric Davis

Committee Member

Dr. Adam Melvin

Committee Member

Dr. Angela Alexander-Bryant


Regenerative medicine focuses on restoring cells and tissues to re-establish proper function. Hydrogels are a customizable and adaptable set of materials that can be engineered as tools for regenerative medicine. My research has focused on developing and applying biomaterials to spinal cord injury and chronic wounds. Spinal cord injury and chronic wounds share pathophysiological issues with oxidative stress, excess free, and macrophage polarization. Furthermore, both conditions lack robust, effective treatments. We hypothesized that citrate hydrogels – hydrogels that contain citric acid as a functional component – would provide radical scavenging and iron chelation that would benefit both conditions. The hydrogels can also be used as drug delivery vehicles for localized delivery of growth factors and other potential treatments.

Three citrate hydrogels were used for two types of injuries: poly(poly(ethylene glycol citrate)-co-N-isopropylacrylamide) (PPCN) and hyaluronic acid-graft-poly(vinyl alcohol citrate) (HA-PVAC) were studied for spinal cord injury applications, and poly(vinyl alcohol citrate) (PVAC) was studied for chronic non-healing wounds. These hydrogels demonstrated biocompatibility, antioxidant activity, and iron chelation, as well as other beneficial properties such as sustained drug release. Together, these hydrogels provide novel treatment approaches for spinal cord injury and chronic wound treatment.

Relevant aspects of disease biology and available treatments for spinal cord injury and chronic wounds are discussed in Chapter 1. Chapters 2 and 3 discuss the use of a PPCN-nanoparticle composite and HA-PVAC, respectively, in spinal cord injury treatment. Chapter 4 discusses the use of PVAC for chronic wound treatment. Chapter 5 summarizes the conclusions of this work and potential future directions. Two additional publications not focused on citrate biomaterials are included as appendices.

Available for download on Tuesday, December 31, 2024