U. of Colorado professor pioneering tissue engineering from knees to hearts to brains

University of Colorado at Boulder Professor Kristi Anseth, an investigator with the prestigious Howard Hughes Medical Institute, has high hopes for the future of tissue engineering as a way to make people healthier, happier and to live longer.

Anseth, a chemical and biological engineering professor, is considered by many to be the pioneer in this fledging field. She and her team which includes 15 CU students -- were the first group to successfully develop an injectable and biodegradable "scaffold" to regenerate cartilaginous tissue using light-activated chemistries. "I believe that it will be routine in five to 10 years to see this procedure successfully working in human knees," she said.

The process involves using ultraviolet light to make repeating chains of complex molecules called polymers into degradable, three-dimensional scaffolds that can be injected with chondrocite cells that grow and multiply in the gel-like substance. The scaffolds, which can be injected into the knee as a fluid, dissolve after tissue regeneration, degrading over time as cartilage re-grows in knees.

"We and other tissue engineers now use this method to stimulate the growth of cartilage, skin, blood vessels and bone," said Anseth, the first engineer ever named a Hughes Investigator. "There are more complex challenges out there in this field, so we have had to become more clever and sophisticated in our designs."

Anseth presented her findings at the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting held in Seattle Feb. 12 to Feb. 16.

She also is collaborating with faculty, researchers and students in the molecular, cellular and developmental biology department to bioengineer human heart valves.

Currently, faulty heart valves are replaced with mechanical valves that require the patients to take anticoagulants on a regular basis. While some heart valves are replaced with the heart valves of pigs, they eventually deteri

Contact: Kristi Anseth
University of Colorado at Boulder

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