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PhD Thesis Proposal: Becca Thomson



9:00am - 10:00am ET

Rm B45, ECSC/Online

Optional ZOOM LINK
Meeting ID: 930 8113 8445
Passcode: 753511


Over 25% of adult women experience pelvic floor disorders including stress urinary incontinence (SUI). Stress urinary incontinence is characterized by involuntary urination when pressure is exerted on the bladder during activities such as coughing, sneezing, laughing, jogging and other forms of physical exercises. Incontinence can have a significant impact on a woman’s quality of life and while there are non-surgical interventions such as pelvic floor exercises and pessaries, the failure rate of conservative management is up to 50%. Many women, for which non-surgical interventions have been inadequate, resort to surgical solutions such as midurethral sling placement. Of the 300,000 patients who receive synthetic mesh sling placement surgeries every year, 5-20% fail and many need revision surgeries where more synthetic mesh is placed, exacerbating the problem.

The primary objectives of this proposed project are to (a) physically characterize and (b) understand biological properties of naturally derived electrospun scaffolds to be used as an alternative to synthetic surgical mesh. The mechanical properties will be tested and compared against native healthy tissue and the attachment and deposition of extracellular matrix (ECM) of fibroblasts to those scaffolds compared to state-of-the-art polypropylene. The deposition of ECM of fibroblasts onto the scaffold will demonstrate feasibility of the scaffold to promote fibrous growth as the scaffold degrades over time.

The scientific chapters of this thesis are:

  1. characterize mechanical and biological properties of composite silk fibroin-polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB) electrospun scaffolds,
  2. develop and characterize coaxial scaffolds with a PHB core and silk fibroin exterior, and
  3. understand the bioactivity and cellular interaction of the scaffold with different cell types and degradation profile.

Based on preliminary data, it is hypothesized that the combination of silk fibroin surrounding a PHB core in a coaxial orientation will provide increased mechanical properties and cell attachment points. The end goal is to create a naturally derived scaffold that will dissolve over time and replace the support of the urethra with healthy formation of fibrous tissue and understand the mechanism through which this happens.

Thesis Committee

  • Douglas Van Citters (Chair)
  • Katherine Hixon
  • Ryan Halter
  • Isaac Rodriguez (external, Sweetbio)


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