Nealey Group

Devon Eastlack

  • Undergraduate Student

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Devon is currently in her final year as an undergraduate at the University of Chicago. She is pursuing a BS in chemistry.

Poly(ethylene glycol)-based (PEG) hydrogels are becoming increasingly favored for use in tissue engineering because of their physical and “blank slate” chemical properties. By adding specific chemical and topographic cues to the hydrogel network, one is able to direct processes in cells plated on or encapsulated within the gels. Devon’s research aims to design and functionalize these PEG-based hydrogels with modified peptides known as peptide conjugates. Particularly, the positively-charged peptide conjugates KKWKSGSG-(PEG)4-acrylate and KKWKSG-(PEG)4-acrylate are synthesized and included into the hydrogels, allowing DNA plasmids to be held by the network via complexing between the positively charged peptide and the negatively charged DNA backbone. Through her collaborations with Dr. Josh Gasiorowski at Midwestern University, she is helping to develop hydrogel scaffolds that promote cell transfection and direct mesenchymal stem cell differentiation, which can eventually be used for in vivo tissue engineering.