Research

New Biomedical Polymers Textbook

Natural and Synthetic Biomedical PolymersThe Institute for Regenerative Engineering will launch Natural and Synthetic Biomedical Polymers in February, 2014. Published by Elsevier Science, this textbook summarizes the main advances in biopolymer development in the last decade. We believe it will be extremely useful for researchers in formulating their polymers with desirable physical, chemical, biological, biomechanical, and degradation properties for specific, targeted biomedical applications. I thank all the authors for their outstanding contributions. I also thank co-editors Drs. Sangamesh Kumbar and Meng Deng for all their time and effort in coordinating this.

The Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities

I am very happy to announce the launch of the Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities (JREHD). Beginning in 2014, it will be published quarterly.

JREHD is the first journal dedicated to examining and eliminating racial and ethnic health disparities. It is also the official journal of the W. Montague Cobb/NMA Health Institute, whose mission is to eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities. Published by Springer, the journal aims to report on the scholarly progress of work to understand, address, and ultimately eliminate health disparities based on race and ethnicity. The journal currently considers original articles, solicited “evolutionary” reviews presenting state-of-the-art thinking on problems centered on health disparities, and unsolicited review articles of timely interest.

The academic home office of the journal is here at the UConn Health Center. This is a tribute to the university’s dedication to eliminating health disparities. As Editor-in-Chief, I thank everyone involved for their efforts during the past months in ensuring the journal’s successful launch.

My TEDxUConn Talk

TEDxUConn

On September 21st, I was excited to stand on the TEDx stage in the University of Connecticut and give a talk on “Regenerative Engineering.” My talk highlighted the tremendous work being carried out here at the Institute for Regenerative Engineering. More specifically, I discussed our latest invention — a bioengineered matrix for the regeneration of torn anterior cruciate ligaments of the knee.

TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design and is a global set of conferences under the slogan “ideas worth spreading”. TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. I was happy to be included in UConn’s first TEDx conference.

My talk will be added to TEDxUConn site by the end of October, please visit www.tedxuconn.com.

Professor Joseph Freeman Inaugurates Sackler Seminar Series

On August 23rd, we were honored to have Joseph W. Freeman, Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Rutgers University, as the first speaker in the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Seminar Series. Dr. Freeman delivered a talk entitled “Novel Approaches to Musculoskeletal Tissue Repair, Replacement, and Regeneration.” The Sackler Seminar Series is but one of several activities funded through our center endowed by the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Foundation.

After receiving a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from Princeton University, Dr. Freeman earned his Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from Rutgers University and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. Dr. Freeman then joined my laboratory at the University of Virginia as a postdoctoral fellow. He worked on the use of novel biomaterials in bone regeneration, the development of new scaffolds for ligament repair, the use of hydrogels for ligament repair, and the design and construction of a braiding machine for ligament graft construction.

Dr. Freeman’s areas of research interest involve developing and evaluating new implantable scaffolds for the regeneration of musculoskeletal tissues, use of molecular modeling to investigate collagen structure and function, and develop tumor engineering models.

I was pleased Dr. Freeman agreed to speak as part of the Sackler Seminar Series and enjoyed catching up with him. We look forward to bringing other innovative leaders to speak here at the Health Center.

A Special Issue on Nanomaterials for Tissue Engineering

Last month, the Journal of Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering (JBT) published a special issue on nanobiomaterials for tissue engineering in North America edited by Dr. Lakshmi S. Nair, a faculty member in the Institute for Regenerative Engineering. This issue summarizes current perspectives on the use of nanobiomaterials, as well as evaluating other strategies such as stem cell technology for musculoskeletal regenerative engineering. The special issue has been published electronically by American Scientific Publishers.

In addition to editing this issue, Dr. Nair is currently co-editing the second edition of Nanotechnology and Tissue Engineering. Her current research focuses on developing regenerative biomaterials and drug/cell delivery strategy.

Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation (EFRI) Award

I am happy to report that the Institute for Regenerative Engineering received a major award from the NSF last month. This is one of the largest grant efforts in the history of the UConn Health Center. This is also our second EFRI grant. To our knowledge, we are the only research group in the country to have two active EFRI grants.

The focus of EFRI program supports transformative ideas that represent an opportunity for a significant shift in fundamental engineering knowledge with a strong potential for long term impact on national needs or a grand challenge. The abstract of the award is posted on the NSF website.
As the Principal Investigator for the grant, I thank everyone involved in this application for their phenomenal work during the past several months in getting this grant successfully funded. I would especially like to thank the co-principal investigators and the senior personnel listed below. It was a great pleasure working with all of you in putting together this fine proposal.

Co-Principal Investigators
Dr. Sangamesh Kumbar, Orthopaedic Surgery, UConn Health Center
Dr. Kevin Lo, Medicine, UConn Health Center

Senior Personnel
Dr. Yusuf Khan, Orthopaedic Surgery, UConn Health Center
Dr. David Goldhamer, Molecular and Cell Biology, UConn, Storrs
Dr. Pouran Faghri, Allied Health Sciences, UConn, Storrs
Dr. Nathan Swami, Electrical Engineering, University of Virginia

Special Issue of Current Pharmaceutical Design

It is my great pleasure to announce a special issue of Current Pharmaceutical Design will focus on Bone Morphogenetic Proteins for Bone Regeneration and Their Alternatives. This issue summarizes current perspectives on the use of bioactive molecules, as well as evaluating other strategies such as stem cells, biomaterials, vascularization, and gene therapy for bone regenerative engineering. We thank our outstanding contributors for participating, including our colleagues here at the Health Center, Drs. Marja Hurley and Sangamesh Kumbar. In addition, I would like to acknowledge the efforts of guest editor Dr. Kevin Lo, a faculty member here in the Institute for Regenerative Engineering. Without his time and effort, this issue would not have been possible.

The Special Issue has been published electronically by Bentham Science Publishers. The print version will be available very soon.

Technology Innovation and Development Award

Technology Innovation and Development Award from the Society for Biomaterials (SFB)On April 11, I was so humbled by receiving the Technology Innovation and Development Award from the Society for Biomaterials (SFB). The award ceremony was held at the SFB annual meeting in Boston, MA. This award recognizes an individual or team who provided key scientific and technical innovation and leadership in a novel product in which biomaterials played an important and enabling role.

For more than three decades, I have conducted research studies on biomaterials for musculoskeletal tissue engineering, nanotechnology, and drug delivery. I began research in this field in the late 1980s, and was influenced by my Ph.D. mentor, Dr. Robert Langer, an Institution Professor at M.I.T. On behalf of my research team, I thank you sincerely. To be selected by the SFB is indeed a great honor.

A Woman of Innovation

Paiyz MikaelI am very excited to announce that Paiyz Mikael has been selected as one of the finalists for the 2013 Women of Innovation Awards. Every year, the Connecticut Technology Council recognizes women for their innovations, mentoring, leadership in technology, and contributions to the STEM field. These awards also include high-school and college-level students.

Paiyz’s graduate study was supported by a prestigious National Science Foundation GK-12 Fellowship for two years. As a GK-12 Fellow, she was embedded at Hartford’s A.I. Prince Technical High School, where she worked closely with teachers and students to bring fun, hands-on activities to the classroom that reinforced the applications of science and technology while exciting students in STEM subjects. She introduced projects including the design and construction of a working greenhouse, compost and recycling apparatuses, as well as a moon buggy design for a NASA competition. Paiyz also integrated her own research project into the classroom activities. The students learned how to make microspheres using items available at home. These projects immerse students in science lessons involving energy, efficiency and sustainability. Under her guidance, a Prince Tech student team won a $5,000 award from a local energy company to establish a better, greener recycling system. Prince Tech serves a population underrepresented in engineering: 95% minority students and 51% females. As a recent immigrant from Iraqi Kurdistan, Paiyz has been embraced by Prince Tech students. She is passionate about mentoring and helping them realize their potential. She is proudest of her success in initiating a mentoring collaboration between A.I. Prince Tech students and children in a nearby charter elementary/middle school. This partnership fosters strong mentoring skills among the high school students while providing STEM support for the younger children. Above all, Paiyz is most excited about her role as a mother to a beautiful 6-year-old daughter, Rojan; and she truly believes that raising and mentoring children is a privilege and an honor.

Paiyz Mikael in the laboratory

Paiyz joined the Institute for Regenerative Engineering under the guidance of Dr. Syam P. Nukavarapu in the Biomedical Engineering Program at the University of Connecticut. She focused on developing mechanically superior polymeric-carbon nanotube composite scaffolds for the regeneration of segmental bone defects. Prior to that, she graduated with honors from Southern Connecticut State University where she completed her thesis project titled “Study of chemotherapy responses in transformed murine cell line containing a temperature-sensitive mutation in the p53 gene.” Currently, Paiyz is a third-year Ph.D. candidate in the Material Science and Engineering program here at UConn. Her research focuses on exploiting the regeneration of bone tissue through a process that naturally takes place during fetal development (Endochondral ossification). For this, she is working on developing a polymeric-hydrogel hybrid scaffold system that is mechanically compatible with bone; furthermore, the hydrogel phase acts as a natural extracellular matrix on which cells will reside and differentiate further.

Top Research Article in the Journal of Biomedical Materials Research

 Progress in BiomaterialsThe Journal of Biomedical Materials Research (JBMR) has just published its 100th volume, Progress in Biomaterials, which features the top 25 papers it has published in its 50+ years. I am happy to report that one of our lab’s papers, “Electrospun nanofibrous structure: A novel scaffold for tissue engineering” was selected for inclusion. This article has been cited more than 1100 times. According to JBMR, the major criteria for inclusion of papers in this virtual issue was “the identification of articles that, in their time, were considered novel, original, state-of-the-art, groundbreaking, led to clinical application, and opened new areas of biomaterials research.” The editors commented “this pioneering paper by Laurencin showed that biodegradable electrospun nanofiber structures were capable of supporting cell attachment and proliferation and indicated that cells seeded on this structure could maintain phenotypic shape and guide growth according to nanofiber orientation.” Perhaps even more exciting, the editors chose figure 2 of our paper for the cover of the 100th Volume Celebration Edition.

Congratulations to all.

Image was adpated from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1002/(ISSN)1552-4981/homepage/VirtualIssuesPage.html.