University of Rochester

Student's Work on Artificial Bone Marrow Brings Honors

January 10, 2000

A chemical engineering graduate student at the University of Rochester has been named to the faculty of the top chemical engineering program in the United Kingdom, and is also one of 35 scientists among thousands of competitors there to receive a prestigious Governor's Lecturer Award.

Sakis Mantalaris, a graduate student working under the supervision of David Wu in the Department of Chemical Engineering, has accepted a faculty position at Imperial College in London. The college recently began expanding its facilities to combine engineering and medicine, an objective that fits neatly with Mantalaris' current research at the University, where engineers and physicians have worked together for decades.

"We're trying to figure out how to grow human bone marrow," explains Mantalaris. "The trouble has been that not all the blood cells, which are formed in the marrow, grow properly in a flask. We're giving the blood cells an artificial matrix---a scaffolding that simulates the structure of real marrow---in which the cells can grow more naturally."

Doctors need to grow healthy blood cells for a number of reasons, such as studying how the cells react to disease, but some cells lose their shape when grown without scaffolding. Without the right shape many cells simply can't perform their function, or they mature into the wrong type of cell altogether. Combining his knowledge of engineering and medicine, Mantalaris has used an artificial scaffold that mimics the natural environment in which blood cells grow, helping them to develop more like they would in the body.

At the Imperial College, Mantalaris will continue working on the marrow scaffold and the bioreactor in which it helps grow cells with the hopes of producing unhealthy blood cells such as those found in blood diseases like leukemia. By growing the diseased blood cells around a scaffold, Mantalaris hopes doctors will be able to grow enough cells to more fully explore such diseases and how they attack the body.

Mantalaris will complete his doctorate at the University and will join Imperial College by the end of January.