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Kokkoli Research GroupDepartment of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science (CEMS)

Nicole Atchison

Former Graduate Student
Year Left Group
left the group in 2012
218 Amundson Hall
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Research Description

Benign Gels by Silica Nanoparticle Assembly for Cell Encapsulation
Cell encapsulation has been studied for over 50 years with methods from microencapsulation to macroencapsulation. In order for the encapsulated cells to remain viable the capsule must have a specific permeability, provide immunoprotection, have appropriate mechanical properties, and be biocompatible with its system. The capsule must have a porosity size that allows transport of molecules essential for cell survival to the cell (e.g. glucose, oxygen) and of the metabolic end products and secreted substances away from the cell (e.g. carbon dioxide, insulin) The capsule must, at the same time, inhibit the inflow of molecules that may cause immunogenic responses (e.g. T-cells) or inhibit cellular processes.

This study will focus on the use of silica nanoparticles formed into a structured gel for cell encapsulation. The silica nanoparticles have a narrow size distribution, which leads to increased gel porosity control, and can be formed in aqueous solutions in the presence of basic amino acids at near neutral pH. The nanoparticles can be used as building blocks for the structured gels by the addition of gelation agents to the aqueous sols. This method will allow for the control of pore size and the functionality of the silica surfaces by fuctionalizing the silica nanoparticles. Pancreatic islets, which secrete insulin, will be the first target for encapsulation. The hypothesis is that there will be an optimal combination of gel pore size and pore chemistry to ensure cell encapsulation, viability, and insulin production.


B.S., Chemical Engineering, Iowa State University, 2006

Degree Attained
Ph.D. BME 2013
Current Occupation
R&D Engineer, Covidien, USA
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