University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
TiMe Cohort Year
Main focus of research
Emergent behavior of cells in the presence of various biophysical/biochemical factors and is utilizing it to build up biological machinery.
Dr. Hyunjoon Kong
Dr. Rashid Bashir
Eunkyung (Clare) Ko is a PhD student in the Department of Bioengineering and is co-advised by Dr. Hyunjoon Kong and Dr. Rashid Bashir. She received her BS and MS degrees in engineering from Yonsei University, Korea. She is studying the emergent behavior of cells in the presence of various biophysical/biochemical factors and is utilizing it to build up biological machinery.
My project focuses on building a self-actuated living machinery. The first part of the project was to engineer neuromuscular junction which can be switched on and off with a chemical stimuli. Specifically, I compared how the substrate topography can influence the formation of neuromuscular junctions. The muscle layer was engineered on a grooved substrate which has a size of a myofibril. The neural stem cells were seeded on the muscle layer subsequently. Compared to the flat substrates, the myotubes were aligned better on the patterned substrates, and formed mature myotubes. In addition, when we placed neural stem cells on the muscle layer, observed that more number of neuromuscular junctions were formed on the aligned myotubes due to the increased contact points between the muscle and neural cells. Additionally, we performed a functionality study with our engineered neuromuscular junctions. The engineered neuromuscular junctions responded to the chemicals, showing increased contraction after adding glutamate and decreased contraction after adding curare. Interestingly, the addition of glutamate enhanced the contraction frequency better when the neuromuscular junctions were engineered on the patterned substrates.