This year’s Stepping Strong Innovator Awards finalists are addressing complex challenges related to trauma research. Each of the three finalists hopes to receive the $100,000 Stepping Strong Innovator Awards, which will be awarded at Discover Brigham on Oct. 7. Read about their work below, and vote for your choice.

Su-Ryon Shin, PhD, Division of Medicine

Su-Ryon ShinWhat is your research project about?

Tissue engineering has emerged as a promising way to create 3-D tissue for patients who have lost muscle through traumatic, athletic, military and disease-related injuries. However, developing muscle tissue that functions as real muscle—allowing the proper flow and penetration of nutrients like blood and oxygen—remains a challenge.

Our project addresses this obstacle by introducing an entirely new approach: bioprinting. Through bioprinting, we can create 3-D muscle tissue that contains blood vessels and mimics living cells. This advanced technology also has the potential to create significant financial savings by treating muscle trauma without requiring muscle organ donors—a surgical process that imposes staggering costs on our health care system.

What is a compelling aspect of your research project?

The use of bioprinting as an alternative way to treat muscle trauma is a revolutionary scientific concept. Our project uses a perfusable, breathable tissue construct. This is a distinct improvement over earlier models because it allows the flow of a patient’s own blood through the muscle tissue to prevent tissue death. We accomplish this by inserting a hollow tube within the thick muscle tissue construct that enables the proper flow and penetration of nutrients. We also use bioink fibers—biodegradable materials that mimic the elasticity and mechanical properties of living muscle tissues. We believe this novel bioprinting approach will not only help heal muscle trauma but also advance the field of large-scale muscle tissue engineering. Best of all, this process can be readily applied to other areas of regenerative medicine, such as generating new organs.

How will your research benefit future patients who suffer from trauma-related injuries?

Damage and loss of skeletal muscles are common for survivors of trauma-related injuries. When large amounts of muscle tissue are lost, the body is unable to replace it. The trauma site often forms scar tissue that lacks the functionality of the lost muscle. Current treatment options are limited, and many trauma patients must undergo multiple surgeries, which often aggravate the damage. Tissue engineering using 3-D bioprinting holds great promise as an alternative therapy because of its ability to re-establish the structure and function of the injured muscle tissue without potentially harmful surgeries or costly transplants.

or read more about the other Stepping Strong Innovator Awards finalists:

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