Student: Hannah Knudsen

Project: Interaction of Human Mesenchymal Stem Cells with Synthetic Scaffolds in the Presence of Cytokines

View: Research Poster (PDF)

Institution: Lehigh University

Major: Chemical and Bomolecular Engineering

Advisor: Kelly Schultz


A normal wound heals by progressing through three phases: inflammatory, proliferative and remodeling. From previous research, we know human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) are key to progressing healing through all stages and can prevent and help resolve chronic wounds, which are stuck in the inflammatory phase. hMSCs directly influence the body’s inflammatory response by decreasing the amount of pro-inflammatory cytokines and increasing the number of anti-inflammatory cytokines. Cytokines are proteins that act as signaling molecules to evoke biological processes, and include tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) and transforming growth factor beta (TGF-β). When secreted by a wound, these cytokines can elicit a response that regulates inflammation at the site by increasing cell-secretion of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) or tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinases (TIMPs). MMPs degrade the extracellular matrix (ECM) while TIMPs inhibit MMP degradation. In the Schultz Lab, we are characterizing implantable cell-laden materials that can direct cells to a wound using natural cues. We are characterizing poly(ethylene glycol)-peptide hydrogels that mimic the in vivo environment inside the body with multiple particle tracking microrheology (MPT). MPT measures the change in matrix degradation and cell motility of the cells after the addition of cytokines in the incubation environment. We are also developing a kinetic model for TGF- β using Michaelis-Menten enzymatic inhibition kinetics which will describe the mechanism of gel degradation. The results from MPT and the kinetic model can then be compared to determine the mechanism of matrix degradation and future scaffold design that will guide cell behavior during wound healing.


Hannah Knudsen

About Hannah Knudsen

Hannah Knudsen is a senior chemical engineering student with a minor in business at Lehigh University. She is an undergraduate researcher in the Schultz lab, which she joined in Fall 2020 as part of her senior thesis course. Following graduation, Hannah will be joining Catalent’s GOLD program. During her time at Lehigh, Hannah ran on the cross country and track teams her first two years and has since served as Treasurer of American Institute of Chemical Engineers and become involved in the Ski team, Outing Club, Society of Women Engineers and NAMI. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hannah began fostering dogs and has since helped 15 dogs find new homes and adopted her own 7-month old puppy named Skylar.