Faculty Advisor

George D. Pins

Faculty Advisor

Raymond L. Page

Faculty Advisor

Marsha Rolle

Faculty Advisor

Tanja Dominko

Faculty Advisor

Nima Rahbar

Faculty Advisor

David J. Goldhamer


Volumetric muscle loss (VML) typically results from traumatic incidents; such as those presented from combat missions, where soft-tissue extremity injuries account for approximately 63% of diagnoses. These injuries lead to a devastating loss of function due to the complete destruction of large amounts of tissue and its native basement membrane, removing important biochemical cues such as hepatocyte growth factor (HGF), which initiates endogenous muscle regeneration by recruiting progenitor cells. Clinical strategies to treat these injuries consist of autologous tissue transfer techniques, requiring large amounts of healthy donor tissue and extensive surgical procedures that can result in donor site morbidity and limited functional recovery. As such, there is a clinical need for an off-the-shelf, bioactive scaffold that directs patient’s cells to align and differentiate into muscle tissue in situ. In this thesis, we developed fibrin microthreads, scaffolds composed of aligned fibrin material that direct cell alignment along the longitudinal axis of the microthread structure, with specific structural and biochemical properties to recreate structural cues lost in VML injuries. We hypothesized that fibrin microthreads with an increased resistance to proteolytic degradation and loaded with HGF would enhance the functional, mechanical regeneration of skeletal muscle tissue in a VML injury. We developed a crosslinking strategy to increase fibrin microthread resistance to enzymatic degradation, and increased their tensile strength and stiffness two- to three-fold. This crosslinking strategy enhanced the adsorption of HGF, facilitated its rapid release from microthreads for 2 to 3 days, and increased the chemotactic response of myoblasts twofold in 2D and 3D assays. Finally, we implanted HGF-loaded, crosslinked (EDCn-HGF) microthreads into a mouse model of VML to evaluate tissue regeneration and functional recovery. Fourteen days post-injury, we observed more muscle ingrowth along EDCn-HGF microthreads than untreated controls, suggesting that released HGF recruited additional progenitor cells to the injury site. Sixty days post-injury, EDCn-HGF microthreads guided mature, organized muscle to replace the microthreads in the wound site. Further, EDCn-HGF microthreads restored the contractile mechanical strength of the tissue to pre-injured values. In summary, we designed fibrin microthreads that recapitulate regenerative cues lost in VML injuries and enhance the functional regeneration of skeletal muscle.


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Degree Name



Biomedical Engineering

Project Type


Date Accepted



Sigma Xi Graduate Research Award for Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation (2015)




Regenerative medicine, skeletal muscle regeneration, microthreads, fibrin, tissue engineering, volumetric muscle loss, biomaterials, ECM proteins, myoblasts, stem cells, hepatocyte growth factor