Women in Science: Bone and Tissue Regeneration are Fun!

women in science, stem cells, regenerationBioreactors, biomimetics, and stem cells.  Oh my!

My name is Elizabeth Loboa and I am the Associate Chair and a Professor in the Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering at UNC-Chapel Hill and NC State University. I am also a Professor in Materials Science and Engineering at NC State and hold adjunct appointments in the Department of Orthopaedics (UNC), Curriculum in Oral Biology (UNC), Department of Fiber and Polymer Science (NC State), Physiology (NC State), and Biotechnology (NC State). I am also the Founding Director of the Cell Mechanics Laboratory at NC State University, where I am fortunate to direct an exceptional team of undergraduate, graduate, and medical students and post-graduate fellows in our investigations of wound healing, tissue engineering, and regenerative medicine.

As that introduction of my appointments might convey, research in my lab is highly interdisciplinary and brings in expertise from a multitude of different areas. We focus on the use of human stem cells, predominantly those stem cells we can isolate from patient fat, to generate new tissues for people suffering from traumatic wounds and tissue loss.

We are very interested in how we can mimic processes that occur naturally in our bodies to create biomimetic materials and bioreactors. Biomimetic materials are synthetic materials we make in the lab that mimic a cell’s surroundings inside our bodies. Similarly, bioreactors are systems we create in the lab to mimic the mechanical forces that cells experience inside our bodies as a result of normal activities of daily living.

Once we have created these biomimetic materials and bioreactors we use them to direct the fat-derived stem cells to turn into cells that can regenerate bone, cartilage, and other tissues. In addition, we focus on creating biomaterials that can be used to not only tell stem cells what to do, but also to stop infection in wound sites by killing and inhibiting growth of bacteria – even multi-drug resistant bacteria. As you might imagine, I love my job and my research. It is wonderful to come to a workplace every day where I engage with incredible, inquisitive minds as we strive to create new technologies that we hope will benefit many people.

My time outside of work is spent with my wonderful husband, Todd, and our five beautiful children, Claire (15), Grace (15), Joe (12), Auria (10), and Lachlan (8). Their interests are many, and include equestrian, football, tumbling, track, swimming, and karate. Every once in a while, we do manage to slow them down enough for a fun train ride to Durham for family fondue night.

In any spare time I might have outside of my beautiful family and job, I take the opportunity to do my favorite pastime – riding! North Carolina is a gorgeous state and, in my opinion, there is no better way to see it than from the back of a horse…

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Thanks, as always to NC State for letting us share these wonderful stories about women in science. Stay tuned for our next science role model for girls!

Images courtesy Elizabeth Loboa

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