Mark Van Dyke, Ph.D.

Associate Professor
Genderless Silhouette
323 Kelly Hall
325 Stanger St.
Blacksburg, VA 24061

Research Areas

  • Biomaterials
  • Nanobioengineering
  • Neuroengineering
  • Tissue engineering

Research Interests

Biomaterials are an essential tool that provide the basis for bioengineered devices, growing and delivering cells, developing functional tissues, and engineering whole organs. Natural biopolymers that self-assemble on the nano scale have the potential to provide native cellular environments that facilitate the directed behavior of cells.

Research conducted in the Nanostructured Biopolymer Engineering Lab makes use of naturally derived keratin nanomaterials for biomaterials development. Dr. Van Dyke’s research group studies the fundamental characteristics of keratin nanomaterials such as their solution behavior, self-assembly into network structures, and structure-function relationships. Keratin nanomaterials can be purified from natural fibers and when properly isolated, demonstrate several remarkable characteristics.

First, keratin nanomaterials are highly biocompatible and can be used for tissue regeneration, drug delivery, and as carriers for cells; purified keratin nanomaterials contain no cellular elements so they do not elicit an immune response.

Second, keratin nanomaterials have a unique capacity for molecular self-assembly that results in the spontaneous formation of network structures. Self-assembly occurs on the nanometer scale and builds to the micron scale, resulting in homogenous, porous architectures that are conducive to cell attachment and growth.

Third, keratin nanomaterials contain cellular binding motifs that mimic the sites of cell attachment found in native extracellular matrix. By leveraging these unique characteristics, we are creating inexpensive biomaterials with the potential for use in a host of biomedical applications. Commercializing the results of our research is also a focus of the lab.

Our current research programs are directed toward developing greater understanding of the molecular self-assembly process and keratin’s ligand-like function. We have projects that are aimed toward clinical applications such as heart regeneration, inflammation, and bone repair.


  • University of Cincinnati: Ph.D., Materials Science, 1998
  • Central Michigan University: B.S., Chemistry, 1988 

Recent Publications

Waters M, VandeVord P, Van Dyke M. Keratin biomaterials augment anti-inflammatory macrophage phenotype in vitro. Acta Biomater 2018;66:213-223

Parker R, Roth K, Van Dyke M, Grove T. Homo- and heteropolymer self-assembly of trichocytic keratins. Biopolymers 2017;107(10). doi:10.1002/bip.23037

Ledford BT, Simmons J, Chen M, Fan H, Barron C, Liu Z, Van Dyke M, He JQ. Keratose hydrogels promote vascular smooth muscle differentiation from C-kit-positive human cardiac stem cells. Stem Cells Dev 2017;26(12):888-900

Bayon Y, Van Dyke M, Buelher R, Tubo R, Bertram T, Malfroy-Camine B, Rathman M, Ronfard V. How regenerative medicine stakeholders adapt to ever-changing technology and regulatory challenges? Snapshots from the World TERMIS Industry Symposium (September 10, 2015, Boston). Tissue Eng Part B Rev 2017;23(2):159-62

Ronfard V, Vertès AA, May MH, Dupraz A, Van Dyke ME, Bayon Y. Evaluating the past, present, and future of regenerative medicine: A global view. Tissue Eng Part B Rev 2017;23(2):199-210

Seyler TM, Bracey D, Plate JF, Lively MO, Mannava S, Smith TL, Saul JM, Poehling GG, Van Dyke ME, Whitlock PW. The development of a xenograft-derived scaffold for tendon and ligament reconstruction using a decellularization and oxidation protocol. Arthroscopy 2017;33(2):374-86

Poranki D, Goodwin C, Van Dyke M. Assessment of deep partial thickness burn treatment with keratin biomaterial hydrogels in a swine model. Biomed Res Int 2016. Article ID 1803912. (open access)

Fearing BV, Van Dyke ME. Activation of astrocytes in vitro by macrophages polarized with keratin biomaterial treatment. Open J Regen Med 2016;5:1-13

Tomblyn S, Kneller EP, Ellenburg MD, Kowalczewski C, Van Dyke M, Burnett L, Walker SJ, Saul JM. Keratin hydrogel carrier system for simultaneous delivery of exogenous growth factors and muscle progenitor cells. J Biomed Mat Res: Part B 2016;104(5):864-79

de Guzman RC, Tsuda SM, Ton MTN, Zhang X, Esker AR, Van Dyke ME. Binding interactions of keratin-based hair fiber extract to gold, keratin, and BMP-2. PLoS One 2015;10(8):e0137233 (open access)