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NJIT engineer poised to take stem cell research a step forward

Treena Arinzeh, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) who is one of the nation's leading stem cell researchers, has received two grants that will help her bring the promise of stem cell research a step closer to reality.

Arinzeh received a $700,000 grant from the New Jersey Commission on Spinal Cord Research, a state agency that funds spinal cord research. She will use the grant to build a laboratory to test if stem cells taken from adult bone marrow can be made to turn into neurons. If her research shows that the cells can turn into neurons -- the nerve cells in the body that control brain and spinal cord function -- patients with spinal cord injuries could be healed with injections of stem cells.

"When you injure your spinal cord," Arinzeh said, "you damage your nerve tissue and the neurons. So I'd like to regenerate that nerve tissue by coaxing stem cells to turn into neurons. My hope is that in five years, say, a person with spinal cord impairment could visit a doctor and be injected with a supply of stem cells. After such treatment, the patient's spinal cord would begin to heal."

Working with Michael Jaffe, PhD, professor of biomedical engineering and chemistry at NJIT, Arinzeh will make what are known as nano-scaffolds. Scaffolds are biomaterials that stem cells attach to and, with a bit of luck, grow into the cellular building material of tissue. Under a microscope, the nano-scaffolds look like infinitesimally small (400-500 nanometers in diameter) fiber meshes, said Arinzeh.

"We are eager to see," said Arinzeh, "if the innovative technique of using nano-scaffolds can be used to repair injured spinal cords."

Arinzeh's second $300,000 grant, from the New Jersey Commission on Science and Technology, will allow her to apply her stem cell techniques to help patients who have cartilage damage. She and Jaffe will spur cartilage regeneration by combing stem cells
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Source:New Jersey Institute of Technology


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