Treena Arinzeh in her laboratory
Q: Hasn’t stem-cell research been banned?
A: Not entirely. Embryonic stem-cell research is legal but isn't currently eligible for federal funding. But Arinzeh works with adult stem cells. An adult stem cell is an unspecialized cell that builds and maintains tissues and organs. Stem cells are harvested from bone marrow, umbilical cords, the brain and spinal cord, and other tissue.
Q: Why are stems cells so important?
A: Under the right conditions, adult stem cells have the ability to turn into other types of cells. Arinzeh is developing signals, in the form of biomaterials, which will help adult stem cells turn into cells that could be injected into a diseased area of the human body and help to regenerate damaged tissue. If successful, this research could lead to effective treatments for Parkinson’s, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, cancer, osteoporosis, and traumatic brain injury.
Q: Why is Arinzeh’s research so remarkable?
A: Arinzeh has been successful in building “scaffolds” out of biomaterials that aid stem cells in regenerating new bone tissue in rats that suffered from bone defects. She also was the first to successfully transplant adult stem cells from one patient to another. She’s currently testing biomaterials that, in combination with stem cells, might also repair cartilage, tendons, and neuronal tissues.