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Silviya Petrova Zustiak, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering; Co-Director, Institute of Drug and Biotherapeutic Innovation at SLU
Associate Professor of Pharmacology and Physiology


Postdoctoral Fellowship in Biophysics at the National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Ph.D. in Chemical and Biochemical Engineering, University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC)
B.S./M.S. in Bioelectrical Engineering, Technical University, Sofia, Bulgaria

Research Interests

Zustiak’s primary research interests are in hydrogel biomaterials and tissue engineering, with emphasis on developing novel biomaterials as cell scaffolds and drug screening platforms, and elucidating matrix structure-property relationships as well as cell-matrix interactions. Biomaterial-based models are crucial for bridging the gap between traditional tissue culture and animal models by providing a cell environment that closely mimics real tissue. This research is highly multidisciplinary, merging the fields of engineering, materials science, and biology.

Labs and Facilities

Lab Website: Soft Tissue Engineering Laboratory

Publications and Media Placements

Selected Printed Archival Peer-Reviewed Journals

S. M. Kroger, L. Hill, E. Jain, A. Stock, P. J. Bracher, F. He, *S. P. Zustiak, “Design of Hydrolytically Degradable Polyethylene Glycol Crosslinkers for Facile Control of Hydrogel Degradation”, Macromolecular Bioscience, 2020, 20(10), 2000085 

M. Choi, A. Blanco, S. Stealey, X. Duan, N. Case, S. Sell, M.F. Rai, *S.P. Zustiak, “Micro-clotting of Platelet-Rich Plasma upon Loading in Hydrogel Microspheres Leads to Prolonged Protein Release and Slower Microsphere Degradation”, Polymers, 2020, 12(8), 1712

E. Jain, M. Flanagan, S. Sheth, S. Patel, Q. Gan, B. Patel, *A. Montano, *S. P. Zustiak, “Biodegradable polyethylene glycol hydrogels for sustained release and enhanced stability of rhGALNS enzyme”, Drug Delivery and Translational Research, 2020, 1-12 

S. Sheth, E. Barnard, B. Hyatt, *M. Rathinam, *S. P. Zustiak, “Predicting Drug Release from Degradable Hydrogels Using Fluorescence Correlation Spectroscopy and Mathematical Modelling”, Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology, 2019, 7, 410 

E. Jain, A. Blanco, N. Chinzei, L.J. Sandell, N. Case, S.A. Sell, *M.F. Rai, *S.P. Zustiak, “Sustained-released platelet-rich plasma from polyethylene glycol hydrogels exerts beneficial effects on chondrocytes”, Journal of Orthopaedic Research, 2019, 37 (11), 2401-2410

M. Imaninezhad, L. Hill, G. Kolar, K. Vogt, *S. P. Zustiak, “Templated hydrogels for spheroid and aggregate cell culture”, Bioconjugate Chemistry, 2019, 30, 34-46

M. Imaninezhad, K Pemberton, F. Xu, K. Kalinowski, R. Berra, *S. P. Zustiak, “Directed and enhanced neurite outgrowth following exogenous electrical stimulation on carbon nanotube-hydrogel composites”, Journal of Neural Engineering, 2018, 15(5), 056034

J. Bruns, S. McBride-Gagyi *S. P. Zustiak, “Injectable cell-adhesive polyethylene glycol cryogel scaffolds: independent control of cryogel microstructure and composition”, Macromolecular Materials and Engineering, 2018, 303 (10), 1800298

S. Syed, J. Schober, A. Blanco, *S. P. Zustiak, “Morphological adaptations in breast cancer cells as a function of prolonged passaging on compliant substrates”, Plos One, 2017, 12(11), e0187853

A. S. Qayyum, E. Jain, G. Kolar, Y. Kim, S. Sell, *S. P. Zustiak, “Design of electrohydrodynamic sprayed polyethylene glycol hydrogel miscrospheres for cell encapsulation”, Biofabrication, 2017, 9(2), 025019

E. Jain, L. Hill, E. Canning, *S. Sell, *S. P. Zustiak,“Control of gelation, degradation and physical properties of polyethylene glycol hydrogels through the chemical and physical identity of the crosslinker”, Journal of Materials Chemistry B, 2017, 5, 2679-2691

M. Imaninezhad, *I. Kuljanishvili, *S. P. Zustiak, “A two-step method for transferring single-walled carbon nanotubes onto a hydrogel substrate”, Macromolecular Bioscience, 2017, 11(3), 1600261

N. Ahmed, J. Schober, L. Hill, *S. P. Zustiak, “Custom multiwell plate design for rapid assembly of photo-patterned hydrogels”, Tissue Engineering Part C, 2016, 22(6), 543-551

P. Donovan, Y. Chehreghanianzabi, *M. Rathinam, *S. P. Zustiak, “Homogenization theory for the prediction of obstructed solute diffusivity in polymer solutions”, PlosOne, 2016, 11(1), e0146093

S. P. Zustiak, C. Medina, S. Dadhwal, S. Steczina, Y. Chehreghanianzabi, A. Ashraf, P. Asuri, “Three-dimensional matrix stiffness and adhesive ligands affect cancer cell response to toxins”, Biotechnology & Bioengineering, 2016, 113(2), 443-452

K. Shah, D. Vasileva, A. Karadaghy, *S. P. Zustiak, “Development and characterization of polyethylene glycol-carbon nanotube hydrogel composite”, Journal of Materials Chemistry B, 2015, 3, 7950-7962

*S. P. Zustiak, “The role of matrix compliance on cell responses to drugs and toxins: towards predictive drug screening platforms”, Macromolecular Bioscience, 2015, 15(5), 589-599

*S. P. Zustiak, R. Nossal, D. Sackett, “Multiwell stiffness assay for the study of cell responsiveness to cytotoxic drugs”, Biotechnology & Bioengineering, 2014, 111(2), 396-403

S. P. Zustiak, R. Nossal, *D. Sackett, “Hindered Diffusion in Polymeric Solutions Studied by Fluorescence Correlation Spectroscopy”, Biophysical Journal, 2011, 101, 255-264

S. P. Zustiak, *J. B. Leach, “Hydrolytically Degradable Poly(ethylene glycol) Hydrogel Scaffolds with Tunable Degradation and Mechanical Properties”, Biomacromolecules, 2010, 11, 1348-135

S. P. Zustiak, H. Boukari, *J. B. Leach, “Solute Diffusion and Interactions in Cross-linked Poly(ethylene glycol) Hydrogels Studied by Fluorescence Correlation Spectroscopy”, Soft Matter, 2010, 6, 3609-361

S. P. Zustiak, R. Durbal, *J. B. Leach, “Influence of Cell-adhesive Peptide Ligands on Poly(ethylene glycol) Hydrogel Physical, Mechanical and Transport Properties”, Acta Biomaterialia, 2010, 6, 3404-3414

Honors and Awards

2019 Keynote speaker, Annual Technical Meeting of the Society of Engineering Science, St Louis, MO

2018 Saint Louis University Scholarly Works Award for a junior faculty member (1 awarded per year)

2015 Outstanding Parks Graduate Faculty Award, Saint Louis University, St Louis, MO

2011 Fellows Award for Research Excellence (FARE), NIH