2020 Thermoplastic Elastomers Conference

Elda Hegmann

Elda Hegmann, PhD

Kent State University

Liquid Crystal Elastomers for Biomedical Applications


2D cell culture provides a repeatable system to study, test, and understand molecular and cellular phenomena associated with dynamic processes. In contrast, studying cells in 3D polymeric scaffolds is a promising strategy for growing cells in an environment that simulates the natural milieu and provides a realistic method for engineering tissues and in vitro experimentation.

It was earlier reported that liquid crystals (LCs) act as sensors for cell growth and promote orientational order. Hence, combining LCs’ intrinsic anisotropic properties with elastic properties of elastomers enable us to create liquid crystal elastomers (LCEs) with orientational ordering and mechanical properties.

Our unique series of smectic liquid crystal elastomers (LCEs) foams have shown to present very unique internal morphologies and are non-cytotoxic, making them suitable as longitudinal and multi-responsive cell scaffolds. Our LCEs are ideal for cell attachment, cell proliferation and most importantly cell anisotropy. Our LCE foams can be bestowed with highly tunable internal morphology permitting for better mass transport of nutrients for healthier, viable cells throughout the scaffold. The synthesis and design of our LCEs offers multiple degrees of freedom providing broad opportunities for exploring various chemical, biological, and physical aspects of scaffold-cell interactions. I will present how our scaffold platform for in vitro long-term three-dimensional (3D) LCE foams has proven to be ideal noncytotoxic scaffolds to muscle (C2C12s), fibroblast (hDF), and neuroblastoma (SHSY5Y) cells, supporting cell growth for over three months allowing for longitudinal cell function/metabolism studies. I will also validate the importance of matching the mechanical properties of these scaffolds to various tissues.

About the Speaker

Dr. Elda Hegmann obtained her Ph.D. in 2003 at Université Laval in Québec (Canada). Then went of pursuing a Postdoctoral research position at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario (Canada), followed by a Postdoctoral research position at University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Manitoba (Canada), and a Postdoctoral research position in a Federal Lab at the National Research Council Canada (NRC) in Winnipeg, Manitoba (Canada). Then started her independent carrier as a Research Officer at the NRC before joining the Advanced Materials and Liquid Crystal Institute at Kent State University in 2011 as Assistant Professor within the Department of Biological Sciences and the Materials Science Graduate Program. Dr. Hegmann’s research has produced several peer-reviewed articles and 3 patents, and serves as the CEO on a start-up company involving gas and vapor sensors.

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