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Sydney researcher Harvard bound

17 May 2016
Pioneering biomaterials and tissue engineer Professor Hala Zreiqat has been awarded a prestigious Radcliffe Institute Fellowship at Harvard University.

The Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study selected Professor Zreiqat from more than 1300 international applications worldwide.

Professor Hala Zreiqat, Harvard's Radcliffe Institute Fellowship winner

The University of Sydney professor who specialises in developing engineered biomaterials and scaffolds for skeletal tissue applications, and investigating their effect on in vitro and in vivo bone, cartilage and tendon regeneration says her goal is to create scaffolding materials that mirror nature.

With the aid of 3D technology she has developed a unique ceramic material that acts as a scaffold on which the body can regenerate new bone, and then gradually degrades as it is replaced by natural bone. 

The work has direct implications for the millions of people suffering bone loss due to injury, infection, disease or abnormal skeletal development.

“Each patient has only a limited amount of bone available for grafting so the demand for synthetic bone substitutes is high. Those currently available are far from optimal,” says Professor Zreiqat.

“My work aims to change that.”

Professor Zreiqat leads a team of researchers studying bone, cartilage and endothelial cell biology and how it reacts when in contact with engineered biomaterials.

“The bone substitute we have developed resembles natural bone in terms of architecture, strength and porosity.

“It is strong enough to withstand the loads that will be applied to it, and also contains pores that allow blood and nutrients to penetrate it.  We have designed it to encourage normal bone growth, and to eventually be replaced by natural bone in the body.

"It actually 'kick starts' the process of bone regeneration making it a superior material to those bone substitutes currently available. Our tests also show that it will not be rejected by the body.

"This material has the potential to positively affect the quality of life of millions of people globally, so we are hoping to see it in use clinically within the next five years.

Professor Zreiqat will spend an academic year at Harvard interacting with a diverse range of fellows selected from an extensive international pool of applicants and representing a variety of disciplines. 

Professor Duncan Ivison, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) congratulated Professor Zreiqat saying, “These are highly competitive fellowships awarded to exceptional researchers. We are delighted that Hala's continuing excellence in the field of bone scaffolding research has been recognised in this way.  Her work is poised to help millions of people worldwide who suffer bone loss due to injury, infection, disease or abnormal skeletal development.”

 

Victoria Hollick

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