Eben Alsberg, assistant professor of biomedical engineering and orthopedic surgery, has been named a 2008 Ellison Medical Foundation New Scholar in Aging by the Ellison Medical Foundation. Case Western Reserve University was invited to nominate two faculty members to submit a proposal, and Alsberg was one of those nominated for this award after an internal competition. National competition was strong, with only 25 awards being granted out of 97 applicants. Alsberg received this highly prestigious award based on his project proposal, "Novel Microenvironmental Technology to Rescue the Chondrogenic Potential of Mesenchymal Stem Cells from Aged Individuals for Autologous Cartilage Tissue Engineering," which exhibited outstanding promise in the realm of aging research.
The Ellison Medical Foundation New Scholar in Aging awards provide funding for newly independent investigators early in their careers when they are establishing their own labs. Alsberg's $400,000 award, distributed over the course of four years, is particularly important at a time when federal funds are increasingly difficult for researchers to obtain. The funding provides for laboratory staffing and establishes research programs to support a long, productive career in science.
Alsberg joined the faculty of the Case School of Engineering and the School of Medicine's Department of Biomedical Engineering in 2005 to establish a research program in tissue engineering, biomaterials development, and bioactive factor delivery. His research aims to better understand what external signals or cues can be used to regulate cell behavior. His lab engineers novel biomaterial systems and microenvironments to present these signals to cells in a defined temporal and spatial manner to control their function and ultimately improve tissue regeneration.
During his graduate work at the University of Michigan, Alsberg concentrated on engineering orthopedic tissues such as bone and cartilage. Cartilage tissue engineering is also an active area of research in his current laboratory. "A large fraction of older individuals suffer from painful and often debilitating cartilage damage in their joints as a result of prior injury or diseases such as osteoarthritis," he said. "It would significantly improve the lives of these individuals if it were possible to regenerate healthy cartilage tissue that integrated well with surrounding healthy tissue and could function as required by supporting loads imparted to it and allowing for nearly frictionless movement. It is our ultimate goal to contribute to the science that makes this possible."
One cell population of particular interest to Alsberg is mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). They have the remarkable ability to change into different connective tissue cells when presented with specific signals. "The award from The Ellison Medical Foundation is going to help my lab determine how MSCs from older individuals can be guided to become chondrocytes, the cells responsible for forming cartilage tissue," Alsberg said. "I am thrilled to receive this award. It is critically important support during the formative years of a young laboratory. It will allow us to pursue an area we a truly passionate about and help us hopefully make an impact in cartilage tissue engineering."
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