Syam P. Nukavarapu, Ph.D.

Professor and Department Chair
Office Phone: (860) 486-6975
260 Glenbrook Road, Unit 3247, Storrs, CT 06269
Research Interests: Biomaterials, Engineered Grafts, and Tissue Engineering
PhD Indian Institute of Science
Postdoc Lehigh University
Postdoc University of Virginia

Research Summary:

The primary focus of Tissue Engineering Science and Technology Laboratory (TEST Lab), directed by Prof. Syam Nukavarapu is to develop biomaterial-based technologies applicable for tissue repair and regeneration. This effort utilizes functional biomaterials and their structures in the form of scaffolds to direct cell function and regulate tissue regeneration. The major thrust areas of the TEST Lab are: (i) Novel biomaterials/engineered structures, (ii) Model in vitro cell culture systems to study complex cell-material interaction, and (iii) Bioreactor technologies to enhance tissue regeneration. The overarching goal of TEST Lab is to engineer tissue and tissue interfaces to advance human health and gain new knowledge in biomedical engineering.

Novel biomaterials/ Engineered structures: Novel composite biomaterials/structures with tailorable and tunable physico-chemical properties applicable to musculoskeletal tissues. Few examples include oxygen-controlled matrices for large-area bone regeneration, and gradient structures for interfacial engineering such as the osteochondral interface. These efforts utilize both synthetic polymers, ceramics, novel composites and bio-inks developed from decellularized tissues.
Model in vitro cell culture systems to study complex cell-material interaction: Focus is to integrate physical and chemical cues in the three-dimensional scaffold microenvironment to promote cell-cell and cell-material interaction towards mature tissue phenotype development. Our ongoing efforts continue to study the effect of porosity, physical/chemical cues and topography to direct cell response and regulate multi-phasic tissue development, and bone-cartilage interface formation.
Bioreactor Technologies: Our current efforts are focused on the refinement of bioreactors applicable to multi-phasic grafts, and hyperbaric oxygen chambers to study the effect of high-pressure oxygen treatment on cell function and tissue regeneration. In this direction, the lab is devising new bioreactor technologies to culture stem cells/chondrocyte spheroids and study the role of mechanical loading on cellular phenotypic drift, which is a significant issue that limits progress in cartilage tissue engineering.

Honors and Awards:

  • Distinguished Engineering Educator Award, School of Engineering, University of Connecticut

  • Elected Member, Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering (CASE)
  • Castleman Term Professor in Engineering Innovation, SOE, University of Connecticut
  • AAUP Teaching Excellence Award, University of Connecticut
  • Young Investigator Award, AO Foundation, Davos, Switzerland
  • Junior Investigator Award, Musculoskeletal Transplant Foundation (MTF), Edison, NJ

Books Edited:

  • Nukavarapu SP, Liu H, Deng T, Oyen M, Tamerler C, Advances in Structures, Properties and Applications of Biological and Bioinspired Materials, MRS F13 Symposium Proceedings, Volume 1621, Cambridge Press.
  • Nukavarapu SP, Freeman J, Laurencin CT. Regenerative Engineering of Musculoskeletal Tissues and Interfaces, Woodhead Publishers, 2015.

Selected Publications: (PubMed and Google Scholar listing)

  • Mikael PE, Golebiowska AA, Xin X, Rowe DW, Nukavarapu Evaluation of an Engineered Hybrid Matrix for Bone Regeneration via Endochondral Ossification. Ann Biomed Eng. 2019 Apr 29. [Epub ahead of print]
  • Xin et al., Histological Criteria that Distinguish Human and Mouse Bone Formed Within a Mouse Skeletal Repair Defect. J Histochem Cytochem. 2019 Jun;67(6):401-417. (Featured on Cover)
  • Xu TO, Kim HS, Stahl T, Nukavarapu Self-neutralizing PLGA/magnesium composites as novel biomaterials for tissue engineering. Biomed Mater. 2018 Mar 16;13(3):035013.
  • Mikael P, Hyun K, Nukavarapu SP. Hybrid Extracellular Matrix Design for Cartilage-Mediated Bone Regeneration, J Biomed Mater Res B Appl Biomater. 2018 Jan;106(1):300-309. (Featured on Cover)
  • Nukavarapu et al., “Gradient Porous Scaffolds”. US Patent: 9,707,322 B2, 2017.
  • Dorcemus D, George E, Dealy C, Nukavarapu SP. Harnessing External Cues: Development and Evaluation of an In Vitroculture system for Osteochondral Tissue Engineering. Tissue Eng Part A. 2017 Aug;23(15-16):719-737.
  • Amini AR, Xu TO, Chidambaram R, Nukavarapu, SP. Oxygen Tension Controlled Matrices with Osteogenic and Vasculogenic Cells for Vascularized Bone Regeneration In Vivo. Tissue Eng Part A, 2016, 22, 610-620. (Featured on Cover)