Skip to main content

Yong Mao, PhD


Dr. Yong Mao is currently an Associate Research Professor and the lead biologist in the Laboratory for Biomaterials Science. She joined Rutgers in 2013, having developed both academic and industrial research experience. Her research interests include cell-biomaterial interaction, extracellular matrix/synthetic hybrid bioactive scaffolds, stem cell technology, infection resistant biomaterials and wound healing. She has established and led multiple industrial collaborations.  She also enjoys mentoring undergraduate students and developing their independent research capabilities. Dr. Mao directs the biological laboratory and microbiology laboratory at the LBR and leads the collaborations with internal and external research groups.


Bioactive ECM-based polymeric scaffolds

Biodegradable polymeric scaffolds have gained tremendous interest in tissue regeneration in recent years due to their tunability in mechanical, structural and degradable properties.  However, the lack of biological activity limits their integration with host tissues.  To improve the biological activity of polymeric scaffolds for tissue-specific regeneration, we harness the biological cues from cell/tissue specific extracellular matrix (ECM) and combine them with polymeric scaffolds.  By culturing lineage-specific cells on polymer scaffolds, followed by decellularization, hybrid scaffolds containing cell type specific ECM have been fabricated.  These hybrid scaffolds guide the differentiation of human mesenchymal stem cells.  Our research goal is to optimize the architecture of scaffolds, the biological activity of ECM and the presence of signaling peptides to support tissue regeneration.

In vitro expansion of primary cells for cell-based therapies

For many cell-based therapies, a large number of primary human cells are needed.  For example, autologous chondrocyte implantation demands significant amplification of patients’ own chondrocytes to repair cartilage damage.  However, the expansion of primary cells on tissue culture polystyrene results in dedifferentiation (loss of original cell phenotypes) of cells.  We are exploring in vitro cell culture substrates to support cell expansion while minimizing cell dedifferentiation.  Currently, modulating the cell adhesiveness to substrates and incorporating cell-type specific ECM components to substrates have demonstrated favorable effects on in vitro expansion of primary cells.  We continue to explore the in vitro culturing conditions for human primary cells for therapeutic purposes.

Antimicrobial and anti-fibrotic activity of biological materials

Bacterial colonization in the wound environment or on implantable biomaterials leads to infection, which can result in more severe pathologies and failure of the implant.  By characterizing the anti-bacterial activity of synthetic polymeric materials, we are able to facilitate the design and fabrication of infection-resistant biomaterials by chemists and material scientists.

Amniotic membranes (AM) have been used in wound treatment since ancient times.  Recent years, processed AM have been developed into commercially available advanced biological wound dressing for treating chronic wounds.  We are interested in understanding the properties and biological activities of AM.  The antimicrobial peptides and exosomes (nano-sized vesicles) secreted by AM are our focuses in understanding the source and mechanism of antibacterial and anti-fibrotic activity of AM.