What is it about Arinzeh's research that has caught the eye of the White House?
First, she works with adult stem cells taken from adult bone marrow. So the controversy over the ethical implications of embryonic stem-cell research, in her case, is moot. An adult stem cell is an undifferentiated cell that builds and maintains tissues and organs, and which can renew itself through cell division. Stem cells are harvested from bone marrow, umbilical cords, the brain and spinal cord and other tissues. Adult stem cells also have a unique trait that lends them their magic: Under the right conditions, or given the proper signals, they have the ability to turn into different cell types.
Arinzeh is doing exactly that: developing signals, in the form of biomaterials, that will help adult stem cells turn into cells that, if injected into a diseased area of the human body, could regenerate damaged tissue.
Her research has also led to two major stem-cell discoveries: One showing that stem cells, when mixed with biomaterials known as scaffolds, can help regenerate bone growth; and another proving that stem cells taken from one person can be successfully implanted into another. A list of conditions for which stem-cell treatment holds promise grows almost daily: It now includes Parkinson's, diabetes, Alzheimer's, cancer and traumatic brain injury.
"Treena's research is unique because she has had success in crafting the right environment for stem cells to grow into other cells," said William Hunter, chairman of the biomedical-engineering department at NJIT. "She is working in a brand-new world of medical therapy."
Arinzeh's first stem-cell breakthrough focused on developing scaffolds that aid stem cells. She performed animal studies on rats with bone defects; she also did cell-culture studies. Both showed that the biomaterials stimulated stem cells, producing new bo
Contact: Robert Florida
New Jersey Institute of Technology