Author: Cato T. Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D.

Dr. Thanh Nguyen Joins the IRE

By Cato T. Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D.

Dr. Thanh Nguyen Joins the IREThe Institute for Regenerative Engineering welcomes Assistant Professor Thanh Nguyen. Dr. Nguyen joined the Departments of Mechanical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering at UConn at the beginning of 2016. His research is highly interdisciplinary and at the interface of biomedicine, materials and nano/micro technology. He did his postdoctoral fellowship with Dr. Robert Langer at MIT. His postdoctoral research involved developing a platform technology which can create 3-dimensional microstructures of biomaterials, such as biodegradable and FDA-approved polymers for applications in vaccine/drug delivery and medical implants. In 2013, Dr. Nguyen obtained his PhD from Princeton University in the department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. There he worked with Dr. Michael McAlpine to develop the field of Biointerfaced Nanopiezoelectrics, which aims to create advanced electromechanical materials/devices at nanoscales that can interface with biological cells/tissues for applications in harvesting, sensing and engineering cellular mechanics. His work has been published in prestigious journals and highlighted in major media such as The New York Times and Nature.

2017 Moorehead-Laurencin Sex and Gender Research Forum

By Cato T. Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D.

2017 Moorehead-Laurencin Sex and Gender Research ForumThe Helen I. Moorehead-Laurencin, M.D., Sex and Gender Research Forum is a very important program of the Institute for Women’s Health and Leadership at Drexel University. This year’s forum took place on March 8, International Women’s Day. This interactive program highlighted Drexel’s interdisciplinary research focused on sex and gender in a local, national and global context. I was excited to give the forum’s opening speech and introduce my beloved late mother, Dr. Helen Laurencin, to the attendees. It was well attended by students, faculty, and staff who represented several different schools and colleges at Drexel, as well as many members of the community. The Forum also received media coverage from the local ABC affiliate, WPVI-TV.

I want to congratulate the Institute for Women’s Health and Leadership at Drexel for putting on such a fine forum. View the Forum.

Regenerative Engineering Solutions to Rotator Cuff Tears

By Cato T. Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D.

Regenerative Engineering Solutions to Rotator Cuff TearsRotator cuff tears represent a large proportion of musculoskeletal injuries attended by clinics, thereby making rotator cuff repair surgeries one of the most widely performed musculoskeletal procedures. Despite the high incidence rate of rotator cuff tears, operative treatments have provided minimal functional gains and suffer from high re-tear rates.

I am happy to report that recent data from the Institute for Regenerative Engineering suggest that the regenerative engineering technique can be useful for improved healing of torn rotator cuff tendons. Specifically, our team used a nano-based biomaterial matrix conducive to growing stem cells, and combined it with adult stem cells. The results are promising, but our group must continue working for some time before the process can be applied to humans. Our results were published in the prestigious journal PLoS One earlier this month. The paper represents a novel treatment paradigm for the treatment of massive rotator cuff tendon tears. In addition, our work has been highlighted by the NIH Research Matters. Thanks to the NIH, the NSF and the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Foundation for their support of our work.

The Kavli Foundation Increases Investment in CICATS

By Cato T. Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D.

I am happy to announce The Kavli Foundation has renewed and increased its investment in the Connecticut Institute for Clinical and Translational Science (CICATS). The Foundation supports CICATS Science Cafes, principally through the Kavli BRAIN Coffee Hour Program. These programs are led by CICATS’ Core Interest Groups and are designed to engage a broad range of scientists and generate interactive discussions. Spurred by CICATS’ initial success, the grant from The Kavli Foundation ensures the cafes will continue and expand, pursuing advanced scientific knowledge and research, especially Convergence Research. I want to thank The Kavli Foundation for its unwavering support of our programs here at UConn Health.

Distinguished Professor at Widener University

Distinguished Professor at Widener University

By Cato T. Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D.

On April 4, I was really honored to be the keynote speaker for the 2017 Distinguished Professor Lecture Series at the Widener University School of Engineering. During my talk, I shared my insights on “regenerative engineering” – the convergence of advanced materials science, stem cell science, physics, developmental biology, and clinical transition. Particularly, I focused on our current work on musculoskeletal tissue regeneration using polymeric nanofiber systems and stem cells. Thank you to Dr. Fred Akl, dean of the School of Engineering, and Dr. Rudy Treichel, associate dean, for hosting such a visit and lecture for me.

Dr. Noreen J. Hickok Speaks at the IRE Seminar Series

By Cato T. Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D.

On February 10, we were honored to have Dr. Noreen Hickok, associate professor of orthopaedic surgery and biochemistry & molecular biology at Thomas Jefferson University, speak as part of the Institute for Regenerative Engineering Seminar Series. Dr. Hickok delivered a talk entitled “Orthopaedic Implants and Infection: Surfaces, Synovial Fluid, and the Joint Environment.”

Dr. Hickok was one of my collaborators at Drexel University, and we published a research article in Journal of Orthopaedic Research. For the last 15 years, she and her colleagues have been exploring various means for preventing the establishment of infection in the presence of an implant. Dr. Hickok’s research interests center on strategies to subvert the ability of microorganisms to colonize these implants, as well as to prevent their propagation in the space immediately surrounding the implant. She received a Bachelor of Science from MIT and a Ph.D. from Brandeis University. Her postdoctoral research involved protein biochemistry, molecular endocrinology, and molecular biology. Her interest in cellular/bacterial interactions with surfaces and their regulation now dominates her research, resulting in the development of antibacterial surfaces that are while maintaining cellular compatibility as well as new insights on the role of the implant environment.

We look forward to bringing other leaders in regenerative engineering to speak as part of this seminar series here at UConn Health.

Two Genes Lectureship at Northwestern

By Cato T. Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D.

I was honored to give the prestigious Two Genes Lecture at the Northwestern University School of Engineering. The lectureship is named after two past distinguished biomaterials scientists at Northwestern, Eugene W. Skinner and Eugene P. Lautenschlager. I discussed the work currently going on at the Institute for Regenerative Engineering including our newest initiative, the Hartford Engineering a Limb (HEAL) project. As a visiting professor at Northwestern, I had the opportunity to spend time with my longtime colleagues and friends, Professor Guillermo Ameer and Professor Sam Stupp. Both are great leaders in Biomedical Engineering. It was particularly gratifying for me to meet the graduate students at Northwestern. They are a highly skilled and dedicated group. I am grateful in particular to Professor Evan Scott, a young star in biomedical engineering whom I’ve met at national scientific meetings. He helped host me and provided a gracious introduction to my lecture.

Research!America’s Mary Woolley Visits UConn Health

By Cato T. Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D.

Research!America’s Mary Woolley Visits UConn Health

On December 16th, Mary Woolley, president and CEO of Research!America, the nation’s largest nonprofit public education and advocacy alliance, gave a presentation in Low Learning Center as part of the CICATS Luncheon Seminar Series. It was hosted by CICATS and the Kavli Foundation.

As the CEO of CICATS, I had the pleasure of introducing Ms. Woolley, and she spoke about the importance of advocacy and how scientists should do more to build relationships with their elected officials and policymakers. She referenced the recent passage of the “21st Century Cures” bill as proof that forging relationships can produce positive results. Watch her talk in its entirety.

After the seminar, we toured the Institute for Regenerative Engineering and celebrated the great work and philanthropy of our common friends, Raymond and Beverly Sackler for whom our endowed center is named.

IRE’s Lakshmi Nair Elected NAI Fellow

By Cato T. Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D.

I am very happy to announce Dr. Lakshmi Nair has been elected to the National Academy of Inventors (NAI). Dr. Nair is one of the youngest individuals to be elected to the NAI, and she is now the third person (preceded by Dr. Pramod Srivastava and me) to be elected at UConn. She currently serves as a tenured associate professor of orthopedic surgery and associate director for science administration in the Institute for Regenerative Engineering at UConn Health; and also as a faculty member of biomedical engineering, materials science and engineering at UConn.

Election to NAI Fellow status is “the highest professional distinction accorded to academic inventors who have demonstrated a prolific spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development, and the welfare of society.” Dr. Nair’s novel research focuses on the development of new therapies using regenerative biomaterials to enhance tissue repair and regeneration, including innovative ways to regrow musculoskeletal tissue.

In April, Dr. Nair will be inducted during NAI’s 6th Annual Conference which will take place at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston. With the election of the 2016 class, she is now one of 757 NAI Fellows, representing 229 research universities and governmental and non-profit research institutes.

Please join me in congratulating Dr. Nair.

Inaugural Regenerative Engineering Society Meeting

Rock Stars of Regenerative Engineering

By Cato T. Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D.

The National Academy of Engineering hosted the inaugural meeting of the Regenerative Engineering Society on December 10 and 11 in Irvine, CA. Sponsored by both the National Science Foundation and the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, the meeting took place at the Beckman Center. The theme of the meeting was “Rock Stars of Regenerative Engineering” and featured four leaders in the field who discussed their work. The “Rock Stars” included: Rui Reis of University of Minho (Portugal); David Gardiner of University of California, Irvine; Ali Khademhousseini of M.I.T.; and Roderic Pettigrew of NIH/NIBIB.

This was indeed an historic event for the Regenerative Engineering Society, an organization that works to push the boundaries of how we think about regeneration through the creation of a community that knows no bounds. On behalf of the organizing committee of the Regenerative Engineering Society, I want to thank and congratulate everyone who participated. I look forward to our next Rock Stars meeting, and to further building our membership.

Rock Stars of Regenerative Engineering    Rock Stars of Regenerative Engineering