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The Kaplan Lab focuses on biopolymer engineering to understand structure-function relationships, with emphasis on studies related to self-assembly, biomaterials engineering, tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. The studies include a variety of structural proteins, including collagens, elastins, resilins and silks.

The lab has pioneered the study of silk-based biomaterials in regenerative medicine, starting from fundamental studies of the biochemistry, molecular biology, and biophysical features to the impact on stem cell functions and complex tissue formation. The result has been the emergence of silk as a new option in the degradable polymer field with excellent biocompatibility, new fundamental understanding of control of water to regulate structure and properties, and new tissue-specific outcomes with silk as scaffolding in gel, fiber, film or sponge formats. Studies are also focused on tissue engineering and regenerative medicine with the use of complex 3D tissue co-culture systems to establish and study human tissues in the laboratory and in animal systems. These systems are also used to study diseases associated with brain, intestine, kidney, obesity, diabetes and cancers, including for therapeutic screening. Interfaces with optical imaging tools are also exploited.