IRE Receives a New NIH/R21 Research Grant

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

Institute for Regenerative Engineering faculty members Dr. Thanh Nguyen (PI) and I (Co-I) have received new funding from the NIH/NIBIB. This proposed project aims to study the science and technology which allow creating a biodegradable, highly efficient piezoelectric stimulator and integrating the stimulator with a biological chondrocyte-seeded cartilage graft to form a bionic self-stimulated cartilage tissue. We believe this bionic cartilage will be able to self-harvest mechanical impacts from joint forces, generating useful electricity to sufficiently stimulate and accelerate its own healing and regeneration process.

Congratulations to Dr. Nguyen on funding for this exciting project.

First Regenerative Engineering Science Café

1st Regenerative Engineering Science CaféBy Cato T. Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D.

Sponsored by the Kavli Foundation and CICATS, the first Regenerative Engineering Science Cafe took place on July 6th at “Butchers and Bakers” in Farmington. It featured 6 exciting leaders in the field who discussed their work and visions in an interactive fashion. Over 40 students, faculty, researchers, engineers, clinicians, and staff attended the event. Regenerative Engineering is a new field which focuses on the convergence of advanced material sciences, stem cell science, physics, developmental biology and clinical translation for solving next-generation challenges in tissue regeneration.

I thank everyone at CICATS and IRE for their hard work to put together this amazing event.

1st Regenerative Engineering Science Café

1st Regenerative Engineering Science Café

 

Mentorship Science Café at UConn Health

Mentorship Science Café at UConn Health

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

On June 30th, CICATS kicked off this year’s Science Café Series with a focus of mentorship. Over 35 students, faculty, researchers, and staff attended the event in UConn Health’s Academic Lobby. Through engaging talks from invited speakers, the mentorship Science Café was an exciting and productive event.

CICATS strives to educate and nurture established, emerging and future scientists through its Science Cafe Series which is a Kavli BRAIN Event. Each month, the Science Cafe focuses on a specific topic. As a result of our previous success with “Kavli Coffee Hours”, the Kavli Foundation renewed and increased its support.

In addition to the Kavli Foundation, we thank our faculty, partners, affiliates, and the Connecticut Legislative Black and Puerto Rican Caucus for their continuing support.

As the CEO of CICATS, I thank everyone at CICATS for their hard work putting together the CICATS Science Café series.

For more information about upcoming Science Café events, please visit: http://cicats.uconn.edu/science-cafes/

Mentorship Science Café at UConn HealthMentorship Science Café at UConn Health

 

IRE’s Lakshmi Nair Inducted as National Academy of Inventors Fellow

Dr. Lakshmi Nair was inducted into the  National Academy of Inventors (NAI) at its 6th annual meeting in Boston

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

In April, Dr. Lakshmi Nair was inducted into the National Academy of Inventors (NAI) at its 6th annual meeting in Boston. She is one of the youngest individuals to be elected to the NAI, and she is the third person (preceded by Dr. Pramod Srivastava and me) to be elected from UConn. Election to NAI Fellow status is the highest professional distinction accorded solely 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. Nominees must be a named inventor on patent(s) issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and must be affiliated with a university, non-profit research institute or other academic entity.

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. She currently serves as a tenured associate professor of orthopedic surgery and is associate director for science administration at the Institute for Regenerative Engineering. In addition, she is also a faculty member of biomedical engineering, materials science and engineering at UConn.

New Faculty Member Joins the IRE

Dr. Jorge Luis Escobar IviricoBy Cato T. Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D.

I am very pleased to announce Dr. Jorge Luis Escobar Ivirico, a postdoctoral fellow in our lab, has been appointed Assistant Research Professor in the Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, School of Engineering at UConn Storrs and also as a faculty member in the Institute for Regenerative Engineering. After earning his BS in Chemistry, and MSc in Materials Science from the University of Havana, Jorge earned his Ph.D. from the Technical University of Valencia (Spain).  He was a postdoctoral fellow in both Spain and Germany. In Fall 2015, he joined the IRE under my supervision. He has a multidisciplinary technical background focused in biomimetic materials and biomaterials, drug delivery, cell-material interaction, nano/micro technology, tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. Speaking for the IRE faculty, we are very excited to have Jorge assume this new role.

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.