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February 1, 2011

UVa Wins First-of-a Kind “Emerging Frontiers” National Science Foundation Grant for Musculoskeletal Regeneration

A research group led by Dr. Cato T. Laurencin, with faculty representing five departments at the University of Virginia, will work on a first-of-its kind, $2 million grant project as they explore novel methods for the regeneration of musculoskeletal tissues. The grant from the National Science Foundation is known as an EFRI grant — Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation.

The group, led by Dr. Laurencin, with faculty in orthopaedic surgery, chemical engineering, biomedical engineering, electrical engineering and materials science, will investigate several innovative ways to engineer new material surfaces that will allow a range of musculoskeletal tissues to grow.

“These studies should give us important fundamental information that will be broadly applicable in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine,” said Dr. Laurencin, principal investigator (PI) for the studies and Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery, Biomedical Engineering and Chemical Engineering at the University of Virginia.  “This grant complements my recently awarded Department of Defense grant aimed at exploring new strategies for limb regeneration.”

Laurencin said that a team approach is needed to tackle such a great problem. “The National Science Foundation Grant allows for a broad team that will explore important material surface cues to permit optimum cellular interactions. Learning how best to design materials, create artificial tissues and understand their healing abilities -ultimately, for the successful treatment of our patients– is what this translational research program aims to do,” Laurencin said.

Dr. Laurencin’s investigative team includes:  Yusuf Khan, Ph.D., of UVa orthopaedic surgery and biomedical engineering ; Edward Botchwey, Ph.D., UVa biomedical engineering and orthopaedic surgery; Robert Hull, Ph.D., UVa materials science; Lakshmi Nair, Ph.D., UVa orthopaedic surgery; and Nathan Swami, Ph.D., UVa electrical engineering.

Photos of the team are available by calling 434-924-9241.

The EFRI grant is a new initiative from the Engineering Directorate of the NSF and will serve a critical role in assisting in important emerging areas of applied science, including health. These EFRI investments potentially will lead to new research areas, new industries or capabilities, and significant progress in major challenges that face many of the sciences.

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