As a former college basketball player, CU Distinguished Professor Kristi Anseth has plenty of experience with knee injuries. So it’s understandable that her first foray into the field of tissue engineering as a chemical and biological engineer focused on the repair of injured knee cartilage.
Fast forward 15 years, and Anseth has become one of the leading researchers in this interdisciplinary field, bridging the gap between engineering and medicine to create a promising future for people suffering from injury, disease, or bodily defects.
Instead of undergoing knee replacement surgery, for example, and possibly having that joint wear out again later in life, a patient could undergo a much less difficult procedure in which their knee is injected with a specially designed, biodegradable “scaffold” that accelerates cell growth and provides a blueprint for healing. The procedure begins with the extraction of healthy cartilage cells, which are blended with a light-activated hydrogel and injected back into the injured knee where they support and guide it back to health.
If it seems futuristic, well…it’s not. The procedure has been successfully tested on animals and human clinical trials are already under way. Anseth and her team of CU undergraduate and graduate students are now creating hydrogels to fix broken bones, regenerate defective heart valves, produce insulin for diabetics, and grow health brain cells in Parkinson’s patients.
Anseth holds the Tisone Professorship in chemical and biological engineering at CU-Boulder and is a faculty member in CU’s Biofrontiers Institute, as well as an associate professor of surgery at the Anschutz Medical Campus. She holds courtesy appointments in the craniofacial biology department at the CU School of Dentistry and in the CU-Boulder departments of chemistry and biochemistry, and molecular, cellular, and developmental biology.
She received her doctorate in chemical engineering at CU-Boulder in 1994 and was a National Institutes of Health postdoctoral fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before joining the CU faculty in 1996. She has won numerous awards for research and teaching, including the Society for Biomaterials' Clemson Award, the National Science Foundation's Alan T. Waterman Award, and the American Society of Engineering Education's Curtis W. McGraw Award. She was elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2006 and named one of Popular Science's "Brilliant Ten" in 2008.