Devon Headen

Department: Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering

Graduate Program: BioEngineering

Advisor: Andrés García, PhD

Lab Website

Research Summary:

Type I diabetes results from the death of islets of Langerhans, or cell clusters in the pancreas, and results in poorly controlled blood glucose. I am engineering a materials approach to minimize or eliminate the need for immunosuppression after islet cell transplantation, while simultaneously providing factors to improve engraftment of transplants.

I am interested in finding engineering solutions to biological problems. Currently, I am attempting to produce on-chip microfluidic encapsulation of pancreatic islets in non-degradable hydrogels. It is expected that the non-degradable hydrogel capsule will provide immunoprotection in allogeneic islet transplants, leading to reduction or elimination of the need for immunosuppression in transplant recipients. Additionally, the microcapsules will be suspended in a 3D matrix containing MSCs and biological factors intended to promote islet engraftment and survival. So far, I have successfully encapsulated single cells in a PEG-MAL microgel and have observed the maintenance of viability in culture over 7 days.


In 2011, I graduated from Virginia Tech with a BS degree in Mechanical Engineering. During my senior year, I was introduced to the interdisciplinary field of Bioengineering through Dr. Bahareh Behkam's MicroN BASE Lab and helped to lay the groundwork for the conceptual field of bacterially actuated microstructures. My efforts led to a second author publication, "Effect of body shape on the motile behavior of bacteria-powered swimming microrobots (BacteriaBots)." Additionally, I presented my work at the IEEE EBMC 2012 conference.

Although uncertain about my research concentration as a graduate student, I applied to graduate programs with the intention of applying my knowledge of mechanical engineering to solve biomedical problems. In 2011, I join the Garcia Lab at Georgia Tech studying the modulation of immune response in transplanted islets using engineered materials. I was awarded the NSF Stem Cell Biomanufacturing IGERT, and began researching the potent immunomodulatory effects of MSCs to further limit the rejection response at the sight of islet transplants, beyond what is capable with a physical barrier.

Related News
Effect of body shape on the motile behavior of bacteria-powered swimming microrobots
Related Publications
HUVEC biocompatibility and platelet activation of segmented polyurethanes prepared with either glutathione or its amino acids as chain extenders Journal of Biomaterials Science, Polymer Edition Perales-Alcacio JL, Santa-Olalla Tapia J, Mojica-Cardoso C, Vargas-Coronado RF, Chan-Chan LH, Headen DM, García AJ, Cervantes-Uc JM, Cauich-Rodríguez JV