Rosalyn Abbott, PhD | Carnegie Mellon University
Competition Sponsor: US National Academy of Medicine
Awardee Year: 2022
Biomaterials can be used to restore or replace tissue function by filling defects, providing physical stability, and allowing cells to infiltrate, expand in number, and form tissue. One of the goals of tissue engineered biomaterial approaches is to design the degradation of the biomaterial to: 1) initially support cells constructing the tissue, and 2) gradually degrade as new tissue replaces the scaffold. In this way, paired tissue in-growth and scaffold degradation can maintain the properties of the tissue through the healing process. However, a major barrier to clinical translation is that patients have differing regenerative tissue capacities due to complex, interacting, and currently unpredictable factors such as age, disease state, nutritional status, lifestyle, and sex. In particular, elderly patients heal at a slower rate than younger patients due to low metabolic reserve and limited repair capacity, that increases the risk of reconstructive failure, repeat surgeries, poor aesthetic outcomes, and patient morbidity. Furthermore, elderly patients frequently have comorbidities, including: malnutrition, diabetes, vasculopathy, hypothyroidism, and cardiopulmonary reserve that affects the healing capacity and rate. To address the highly variable healing environment in the elderly population, and improve overall health longevity, our idea is to design a biomaterial scaffolding system with a slow degradation rate that can be adjusted non-invasively to degrade on-demand to match the healing process in elderly patients. This strategy will ensure that all patients regenerate stable, functional tissue leading to a reduction of repeat surgeries and an improvement in pain, function, and aesthetics over the lifetime of the patient.
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