“A career in research really gives you a sense of purpose and drive. While it can be a long and difficult path, every day you can feel satisfied that the work you do is for the greater good. And that in itself is one of the most rewarding experiences,” says Richard Tan.
Originally a biomedical engineer from San Francisco, USA, Richard has always felt a calling to investigate medical device innovation within the bioengineering field. In 2015, that calling drew him to the HRI, due to the Institute’s well-established research presence in the bioengineering and biomaterials field.
Now a PhD candidate with the Applied Materials Group under Dr Steven Wise, Richard’s current research interests lie in studying the interface between body tissue and devices – in particular, investigating ways that medical device surfaces can be modified to make them more compatible with the human body. These studies are crucial to the future development of any medical devices or implants that will be used in people, as compatibility is a key factor in the function, longevity, and safety of the device or implant.
“I can truly say that I’m excited to come to work every day and use cutting-edge technology to advance my research. I’m excited about the new discoveries that could be just around the corner. I’m excited about the endless possibilities that my work may make a large impact on people’s lives.”
The latest research
Microscope image of bio-material patch seeded with stem cells. Red stain indicates stem cell wall; blue indicates cell nucleus. Taken by Richard Tan, HRI Applied Materials Group.
Scientists at HRI have been investigating growing stems cells on a compatible bio-material patch which is then implanted in the body, as an alternative to injecting the cells. Endothelial stem cells were used, as these are known to stimulate blood vessel growth and wound healing naturally in the human body.
As lead scientist in this project, Richard explains, “In our lab studies we found that these stem cells seeded onto our patch lived significantly longer in the body compared to stem cells that were directly injected without our patch.”
The findings bring new hope that effective stem cell therapy could soon reach the patient’s bedside. “If the patch proves effective outside the lab, it can potentially solve engraftment issues for a wide range of stem cells that are currently being trialled for many debilitating diseases,” Richard says.
“And for people who suffer a stroke or heart attack, you’ll have an effective new therapy that can literally reverse the damage caused by these devastating conditions.”
These findings, published as Integration of induced pluripotent stem cell derived endothelial cells with polycaprolactone/gelatin-based electrospun scaffolds for enhanced therapeutic angiogenesis, can be viewed here: https://stemcellres.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13287-018-0824-2.
Read the full press release here: Heart patch helps stem cells work magic.
In 2017, Richard was awarded the Unity 4 Best Publication Award at the HRI Awards for Excellence for his paper ‘Non-invasive tracking of injected bone marrow mononuclear cells to injury and implanted biomaterials’ published in Acta Biomaterialia. He also won the 2017 Australian Society for Medical Research award for Best Talk by a PhD Student with a presentation of this work.
Header image: Richard Tan at work in HRI labs