Treena Livingston Arinzeh, Ph.D., an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), won the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) most prestigious honor for outstanding young researchers.
As winner of the NSF Early Career Development award - a $400, 000 grant over five years - Arinzeh was recognized as a faculty member with unusual promise. The Faculty Early Career Development Program at NSF recognizes and supports the early career-development activities of teacher-scholars who are most likely to become the academic leaders of the 21st century. Awardees are selected on the basis of creative, career-development plans that effectively integrate research and education within the context of the mission of their institution.
Arinzeh, of Jersey City, will use the grant to develop a tissue engineering and biomaterials program at NJIT. The program will focus on her innovative use of stem cells, instead of drugs, to treat an array of diseases. Stem cells differentiate into various cell types and may be used to regenerate diseased or damaged tissue.
NJIT is not the only school that will benefit from her research. Arinzeh will develop a program to instruct high-school teachers, minority students and girls in the concepts of tissue engineering. Arinzeh hopes the training will help increase the number of minorities and women in the field of engineering.
“I’m very pleased to have received this prestigious award from the NSF,” Arinzeh said. “The award shows that my research in stem-cell based regeneration has great potential, and that it’s essential to the scientific education of students, both in college and in high school.”
A key element of Arinzeh’s research is the development of so-called scaffolds to aid stem cells. Scaffolds are biomaterials, such as calcium phosphates, that act as a framework for stem cells, allowing the cells to repair bone as the biomaterial degrades.
Her research could lead to major medical breakthroughs helping a host of patients. Stem cell implantation could help cancer patients who've had large tumors removed from bone, Arinzeh says. In many such surgeries, patients lose their limbs. But if implanting stem cells is shown to induce bone repair, amputation may not be necessary.
Stem cells could also help patients suffering from osteoporosis, whose fractured bones could be regenerated by the cells. Arinzeh’s research has, moreover, shown that adult stem cells taken from one patient can be successfully implanted in another. Researchers at first thought such a transfer would be rejected. And Arinzeh is now testing biomaterials that, in combination with adult stem cells, might repair cartilage, tendon and neuronal tissues.
"This is an exciting time," Arinzeh says. "The field of tissue regeneration is wide open, with potential to influence how physicians treat patients with severely damaged or diseased tissues. I feel privileged to be doing research in this important field."
Arinzeh received a bachelor of science in mechanical engineering from Rutgers University; a master’s degree in biomedical engineering from John Hopkins University; and a doctorate in bioengineering from the University of Pennsylvania.