Treena Livingston Arinzeh

Image: JHU Engineering Birth: 1970 Specialty: biomedical engineering Major Contributions: Developed methods for enabling bone and spinal cord repair using stem cells Proved that donor stem cells can be successfully used in therapy

Image: JHU Engineering
Birth: 1970
Specialty: biomedical engineering
Major Contributions:
Developed methods for enabling bone and spinal cord repair using stem cells
Proved that donor stem cells can be successfully used in therapy

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Dr. Treena Livingston Arinzeh has always had a passion for math and science. But when her high school teacher suggested she pursue engineering, she couldn’t picture it because she had never met an African American engineer. Luckily for medical science, she gave engineering a try–earning a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, a master’s degree in biomedical engineering, and a PhD in bioengineering. It was during her undergraduate studies that she began to understand the power of applying engineering principles to medicine, particularly through the use of stem cells.

Stem cells are undifferentiated cells that can become any type of cell in the body, but they need something to adhere to–a scaffold. Arinzeh has shown that adult stem cells paired with the appropriate scaffold can help repair some of the most difficult-to-treat tissues in the human body, such as spinal cord and bone. Her research team developed a method to repair bone damaged by trauma or tumors by creating a demineralized bone matrix from donor tissue that becomes the scaffold to support bone-building adult stem cells. And because Arinzeh works with stem cells from adult bone marrow, she hasn’t faced any of the ethical controversies that tend to plague embryonic stem cell research.

A second critical discovery Arinzeh has made is that stem cells from one person can be implanted in another without causing an adverse immune response. This means patients who receive donor stem cells may not need immunosuppression therapy, which can lead to infection, osteoporosis, or organ damage.

Arinzeh is also concerned with the state of women in STEM. She says, “I think [African American women] don’t see enough of us that look like them so they can identify with that career as something they can actually do.” She invites 40 to 50 underrepresented high school students to her lab each summer to show them that biomedical research is a viable career option.

Written by Nicole Hutchison

Sources:

Diverse: Biomedical Engineering: Treena Livingston Arinzeh

Black Science Network: Treena Livingston Arinzeh, PhD

JHU Engineering: Unlocking the Powerful Potential of Stem Cells

Wikipedia: Treena Livingston Arinzeh

See Also:

TEDx Talks: Growing tissue using design at the small scale: Treena Arinzeh (YouTube)

EurekAlert!: Treena Livingston Arinzeh receives Innovators Award from NJ Inventors Hall of Fame

Journal of Tissue Science & Engineering: Treena Livingston Arinzeh