Jarrett Link, Ph.D. student in Biomedical Engineering, has been selected to receive a 2016 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. Currently Jarrett’s research focuses on maintaining functional properties of self-assembled cartilage and enzymatically enhancing its integration to native cartilage in an inflammatory environment. Articular cartilage covers the ends of diarthrodial joints, such as the knee. It facilitates seamless motion and bears mechanical load. Trauma or age-related “wear and tear” can damage cartilage and, due to a lack of innate cartilage repair mechanisms, ultimately lead to osteoarthritis, a debilitating, painful disease. The self-assembly process in cartilage tissue engineering has emerged as a promising repair technique since it generates cartilage with functional properties approaching those of native tissue. To clinically translate this technique, however, Jarrett and the Athanasiou Lab must ensure that self-assembled cartilage is durable and that long-term integration to host tissue can occur in an environment reflecting that of the diseased joint. Thus, this project aims to maintain the functional properties of self-assembled cartilage and to enzymatically enhance its integration to native tissue in an inflammatory environment. It is hypothesized that transiently remodeling cartilage extracellular matrix enzymatically and delivering chondroprotective factors will ensure long-term, in vivo success of implanted self-assembled cartilage. Jarrett will complete his project under the mentorship of Distinguished Professor Kyriacos Athanasiou in the Departments of Biomedical Engineering Orthopaedic Surgery.
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