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The prize of £120 was awarded to Kayla Kret (far left), Bioengineering  Research Group, Faculty of Engineering,University of Nottingham.

Kayla is from Los Angeles, California and spent her undergraduate years at Fresno State studying Biology with an emphasis on Human Anatomy and Physiology, where she also played for the University Women’s Football team. She came to the University of Nottingham to study for a Master’s degree in Bioengineering and, ultimately, a PhD in Mechanical Engineering. She was drawn to her particular research because of her interest in football and the increasing incidence of ruptured ACL injuries in women’s football.

A novel method of modifying gelatin/chitosan hydrogels  for soft tissue engineering applications

Hydrogels have been an increasingly popular material within tissue engineering, already active in contact lenses and skin grafts for severe burns, due to their biocompatibility and highly tunable characteristics. The inherent low mechanical properties of hydrogels make them an ideal scaffold in soft tissue engineering.

In my research, I will be developing a hydrogel with gelatin and chitosan as my base materials and proanthocyanidin, found in grape seeds, as a binding agent. These materials are natural, easily attainable, and biocompatible. A challenge of using a gelatin/chitosan hydrogel as a scaffold for tissue engineering is to create a 3D structure independent of its vessel. To overcome this challenge, I have created a method of using an intermediate layer within a tissue culture well plate to then allow the hydrogel to become freestanding and flexible. The intermediate layer is composed of materials found in cell culture and does not introduce harmful or foreign substances. The hydrogel discs have shown high cell viability and durability during handling. The surface composition of the freestanding hydrogel discs remain unaltered by the intermediate layer, confirmed using Near Ambient Pressure X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy. This has proven a successful method of modifying gelatin/chitosan hydrogels for application in soft tissue engineering.

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