Biomedical engineering student takes first place at Biomaterials Day

Biomaterials Day-2.jpgLauren Cross, a doctoral student in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Texas A&M University, recently took first place at the Biomaterials Day funded by the Society for Biomaterials (SFB) at The University of Texas at Austin. Cross took first place for her poster “Nanosilicates for sustained therapeutic delivery to direct stem cell fate.”

Cross started at Texas A&M in the fall of 2014. She conducts research out of Dr. Akhiesh Gaharwar’s Inspired Nanomaterials and Tissue Engineering (iNanoTE) Laboratory and is currently designing nanoengineered approaches to promote bone repair and regeneration. Her goal is to develop an injectable, minimally invasive alternative to typical bone regeneration strategies utilizing a natural material, gelatin, reinforced with nanosilicates (a novel disk-shaped nanoparticle) and incorporating stem cells and bioactive cues.  

“I believe my research is impactful in the field of biomedical engineering,” said Cross. “We tackle projects with a multidisciplinary approach and not only characterize and utilize novel materials for tissue engineering applications, but also, and more importantly, aim to understand how these materials interact with and affect cells.”

Nanosilicates are mineral-based nanoparticles containing orthosilicic acid, magnesium and lithium with a 30 nanometer diameter and 1 nanometer thickness. “Our current studies show that these minerals can induce stem cells to become bone cells,” said Gaharwar. “Cross’ research focus is on understanding an underlying mechanism that governs favorable responses, leading to a better understanding of how materials strategies can be leveraged to further improve construct performance and ultimately shorten patient recovery time.” 

Cross is developing nanosilicates to deliver lower and safer concentrations of bioactive cues or growth factors for the purpose of bone or osteo-regeneration. Based on the strong preliminary studies, Cross believes that these highly bioactive nanosilicates may be utilized to develop devices, such as injectable tissue repair matrixes, bioactive fillers or therapeutic agents for stimulating specific cellular responses in bone-related tissue engineering.

“Lauren exhibits exceptional scholarly excellence and her research has immense transformative potential in the areas of basic cell biology, stem cell research and regenerative medicine,” said Gaharwar.

Biomaterials Day, funded by the SFB, is a one-day symposium at five different locations throughout the United States. Biomaterials Day at UT Austin aims to enhance networking between academic, industrial and government sectors, and will increase student exposure to exciting biomaterials research.