By Thomas K. Grose
Chemical and biological
engineer Kristi Anseth has, at the tender age of 35, already
built a distinguished career in the burgeoning interdisciplinary
area of biomaterials, which uses chemistry, biology, and engineering
to devise replaceable body parts. The University of Colorado-Boulder
professor is a leader in the development of new materials
to build scaffolds, or templates, on which cells can grow
to replace diseased or damaged parts, like knees, hips, and
even some structures of the human heart. Now Anseth has won
the National Science Foundation's Alan T. Waterman Award,
a $500,000, three-year grant given annually to outstanding
young researchers under the age of 36.
Notes Anseth: "A scaffold is really just recreated
tissues, and if you think of it like a building, this is a
framework from which other structures can be formed."
The materials are gel-like liquids, injected into the body.
Lasers shape and harden the materials into flexible scaffolds.
As the cells interact with the templates and grow into new
tissue, the scaffolding biodegrades. It's hoped that
injectable scaffold materials will someday provide replacement
body parts without the trauma of major surgery.
The NSF considers Anseth's teaching talents award-winning,
too. Students she's mentored have won eight NSF Graduate
Research fellowships and many other awards, as well.