Professor Kao earns Vilas award
he UW-Madison Graduate School and Vilas Trustees awarded funding to Professor Weiyuan John Kao through the Vilas Associates program. Kao and his students are investigating white blood cell signaling pathways and how they interact with different biomaterials, including nanomaterials, scaffolding materials for tissue regeneration, and material devices for implants such as a pacemaker or hip.
Already in use, the materials generally work well, says Kao. “But in certain cases, they will fail catastrophically in a way that the person may die or the person may require a second surgery to correct the problem,” he says. “And a lot of these failures stem from the failure of the material. It is believed that the materials physically fail because of all the biological responses to the materials, like the inflammation and the immune reactions.”
He and his students are methodically studying the relationship between the material structure and the mechanisms through which the white blood cells are being activated.
The researchers hope to apply what they learn to new, biocompatible, mechanically functional biomaterials. “Once we know the connection of these material structures and the extent and the route of activation of these white blood cells, then we can have a better engineering approach for designing the next compatible materials,” says Kao.
As a Vilas Associate, Kao receives research salary support during summer 2009 and summer 2010, and flexible research funds each fiscal year.