Skip to Page Level NavigationSkip to Page ContentSkip to Page Contact Information
Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Print this Page

Faux bones about it: Team improves design

For a salamander or a starfish, a severely damaged (or even amputated) limb is no big deal. But for humans – whose ability to regenerate tissue does not match that of Urodela and echinoderms – significant bone loss from trauma, osteoporosis or cancer can be debilitating.

According to Amy Yousefi, associate professor in the department of chemical, paper and biomedical engineering, a human bone defect of a certain critical size (about one inch in the radius or ulna or two inches in the femur or tibia) will not heal completely without a graft. Traditionally, grafts are taken from elsewhere in the patient’s body or from a human donor. However, there are a number of complications associated with this approach, so synthetic bone graft substitutes, or bone scaffolds, are increasingly used in place of natural human bone.

diagram-of-bone-scaffoldIdeally, a synthetic bone scaffold will foster biological regeneration processes while also assuming the load-bearing function of healthy bone. “The scaffold should be receptive to cells; cells should like it in terms of structure and chemistry,” Yousefi says. At the same time, the scaffold’s mechanical properties should enable the patient to exercise almost immediately following surgery because, as Yousefi points out, “Exercise is stimulation that promotes bone growth and prevents bone resorption.”

But it turns out that these criteria compete with one another. “It’s difficult to get everything working at the same time,” Yousefi says. “There are other research teams working on the same kind of design. Some of them have constructs that are load-bearing, but they’re not necessarily porous enough, or if they’re porous enough, they don’t have the required mechanical properties, or if they have both, they won’t have the right chemistry and cells won’t necessarily like the structures.”

Yousefi saw an opportunity to assemble an interdisciplinary team at Miami with the potential to resolve the tensions between the competing criteria. Yousefi; Paul James, associate professor of biology; Shouzong Zou, associate professor of chemistry; Jing Zhang, assistant professor of statistics; and Jens Mueller, senior research computing specialist, each contribute a key piece to the complex puzzle.

“Amy’s part of the project is to develop the materials that we’re going to grow these cells on that are going to mimic the properties of bone. My part of the project is to actually grow the cells and seed them into these scaffolds,” James says. “We know what goes into the material,” he continues, “but in the final product, we don’t know exactly where it is and that’s what Zou will be doing – looking at where the specific materials that we put into the scaffold end up in the final product.”

With chemical, biological and engineering variables all at play, designing experiments that will ultimately yield the optimal solution is a daunting prospect. “A high number of variables gives you a high number of experiments and structures to build,” explains Yousefi. So Zhang and Mueller are applying their respective statistical and computing expertise to more efficiently account for and manage the copious parameters. “We want to develop a strategy for designing these scaffolds that is easier for the researchers to use,” Yousefi says, “so the experimental design itself is something we want to come up with, to offer to the research community.”

Once enough pieces of the puzzle are in place to allow an appreciation of the overall picture, Yousefi and her team hope to advance their project with funding from the National Institutes of Health or the National Science Foundation. “Miami’s office for the advancement of research and scholarship has provided seed funding that will enable us to generate some preliminary data and increase the chance of outside funding,” Yousefi says. While that may not be the final piece in the puzzle, it will be an important step in getting this biomedical technology into the hands – and arms and legs – of patients.

Written by Heather Beattey Johnston, OARS assistant director and information coordinator. Image provided by Amy Yousefi.
Locations
Luxembourg
West Chester
Middletown
Hamilton
Oxford
  • Luxembourg
    Luxembourg

    John E. Dolibois European Center, Luxembourg

    One of Miami's oldest continuous study abroad programs, the Miami University John E. Dolibois Center (MUDEC) in Luxembourg offers students the opportunity to enroll in Miami classes taught by European-based and Ohio-based Miami faculty. Students enjoy a unique combination of first-class academics, engagement in the local community, and various faculty-guided and independent travel opportunities.

    Contact and emergency information for the Luxembourg Campus. Starting with general contact info on the left; additional contact and emergency information on the right.

    Château de Differdange
    1, Impasse du Château
    L-4524 Differdange
    Grand Duchy of Luxembourg
    luxembourg@MiamiOH.edu
    MiamiOH.edu/luxembourg

    217-222 MacMillan Hall
    531 E. Spring Street
    Oxford, Ohio 45056, USA

    Directions

    Main Operator: 011-352-582222-1
    Oxford-based Coordinator: 513-529-5050
    Emergency info: MiamiOH.edu/emergency

  • West Chester
    West Chester

    Voice of America Learning Center

    Located midway between Cincinnati and Dayton along I-75, the Voice of America Learning Center (VOALC) offers undergraduate and graduate courses and programs drawn from Miami's Regional and Oxford campuses. Home to Miami's MBA program, the Learning Center provides ready access to graduate programs for area educators and courses leading to the BIS degree for undergraduates.

    Contact and emergency information for the Voice of America Campus. Starting with general contact info on the left; additional contact and emergency information on the right.

    7847 VOA Park Dr.
    (Corner of VOA Park Dr. and Cox Rd.)
    West Chester, OH 45069
     
    voalc@MiamiOH.edu
    MiamiOH.edu/voalc

    Printable Floor Plan
    Directions

    Main Operator: 513-895-8862
    (From Middletown) 513-217-8862
    Emergency info: regionals.MiamiOH.edu/emergency

  • Middletown
    Middletown

    Middletown Regional Campus

    Nestled on 141 acres near I-75, Miami University Middletown offers bachelor's degrees, associate degrees, and beginning coursework for most four-year degrees. Nearby Greentree Health Science Academy immerses Miami's nursing and health information technology students in the health care experience while taking classes.

    Contact and emergency information for the Middletown Campus. Starting with general contact info on the left; additional contact and emergency information on the right.

     4200 N. University Blvd.
    Middletown, OH 45042
    regionalwebmaster@MiamiOH.edu
    regionals.MiamiOH.edu

    Printable Campus Map
    Directions

    Main Operator: 513-727-3200
    (Toll-free) 1-86-MIAMI-MID
    Office of Admission: 513-727-3216
    Campus Status Line: 513-727-3477
    Emergency info: regionals.MiamiOH.edu/emergency

  • Hamilton
    Hamilton

    Hamilton Regional Campus

    A compact, friendly, commuter campus, Miami Hamilton offers bachelor's degrees, associate degrees, and beginning coursework for most four-year degrees. Small class sizes, on-site child care, and flexible scheduling make Miami Hamilton attractive to students at all stages of life and career.

    Contact and emergency information for the Hamilton Campus. Starting with general contact info on the left; additional contact and emergency information on the right.

    1601 University Blvd.
    Hamilton, OH 45011
    regionalwebmaster@MiamiOH.edu
    regionals.MiamiOH.edu

    Printable Campus Map
    Directions

    Main Operator: 513-785-3000
    Office of Admission: 513-785-3111
    Campus Status Line: 513-785-3077
    Emergency info: regionals.MiamiOH.edu/emergency

  • Oxford
    Oxford

    Miami University, Oxford Ohio

    Nationally recognized as one of the most outstanding undergraduate institutions, Miami University is a public university located in Oxford, Ohio. With a student body of 16,000, Miami effectively combines a wide range of strong academic programs with faculty who love to teach and the personal attention ordinarily found only at much smaller institutions.

    Contact and emergency information for the Oxford Campus. Starting with general contact info on the left; additional contact and emergency information on the right.

    501 E. High St.
    Oxford, OH 45056

    Printable Campus Map
    Directions

    Main Operator: 513-529-1809
    Office of Admission: 513-529-2531
    Vine Hotline: 513-529-6400
    Emergency info: MiamiOH.edu/emergency