Groundbreaking contributions on understanding how human cells interact with the materials in medical implants have helped advance the field of tissue engineering and tissue regeneration, thanks to a San Antonio-based biomedical engineering researcher.
BioMed SA will recognize Dr. Rena Bizios for her innovative work with its 2020 Award for Innovation in Healthcare and Bioscience. BioMed SA, an advocacy organization promoting San Antonio’s bioscience industry, recognizes innovators annually who have put novel ideas into action with transformational results.
The researcher and professor serves as the Lutcher Brown Endowed Chair at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) department of biomedical engineering. A chemical and biomedical engineer by training, Bizios joined the UTSA’s faculty in 2006. Her research focuses on cellular and tissue engineering, tissue regeneration, biomaterials used for implants, and compatibility of those materials with humans.
Bizios’ research exemplifies alternative strategies and novel approaches for human tissue regeneration in tissue engineering and other biomedical applications. Bizios is a co-inventor of four patents derived from her basic research on topics such as nanostructures that can promote new tissue formation and ways to stimulate the body on the cellular level for tissue regeneration.
She also co-authored the first book on tissue-biomaterial interactions, An Introduction to Tissue Biomaterial Interactions, used globally as a framework for understanding how the body reacts to implantable biomedical devices.
The professor’s discoveries have contributed to the development of biomaterials for implants and have established principles that are applied in multiple medical devices used to promote tissue regeneration. Her research into cell and protein interactions with nanostructured materials has led to the development of various applications for nanomaterials, ranging from drug delivery to promoting specific biological responses.
Bizios received her Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, her M.S. in chemical engineering from the California Institute of Technology, and her B.S. in chemical engineering from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
BioMed SA president Heather Hanson said this year’s award recipient highlights both the value of cutting-edge scientific research and training early-stage scientists.
“Not only was Dr. Bizios chosen for the amount of innovation she introduced that advanced her field of study but also for using her knowledge to mentor students and help them with their careers in life science,” Hanson said.
Bizios is still working to answer many questions at the foundation of biomedical engineering.
“We need to understand what happens to materials once they are implanted in the body,” Bizios said. “Will the body accept or reject it? How do the cells, the genes change once these materials are introduced? How can we make these materials better? Can we integrate that material into the body and learn how the body heals from wounds to advance our understanding of implant materials?”
Yet, if you ask the renowned researcher about her career, she will tell you her focus is on educating aspiring biomedical engineers on the latest advances.
“I consider myself first and foremost as an educator,” Bizios said. “It [biomedical engineering] was not a popular field of study at first because it was new and risky. We needed to write textbooks for the students, so I took that mission on to educate the next generation.”
Today, biomedical engineering degree programs are more widespread, but when Bizios started her academic career, it was not available as a major.
“The field is a dynamic one, as it changes all the time,” Bizios said. “Biomedical engineering intersects with medicine, cell biology, genetics, and engineering, and research is exploding in all these fields.”
The BioMed SA two-hour award event, typically an anticipated networking opportunity for San Antonio’s healthcare and bioscience community, will instead offer unique online, face-to-face interaction features, Hanson said.
The user-friendly event platform includes a virtual exhibitor hall for bioscience and health vendors, the ability to book one-on-one and group video chats with attendees, and a keystone presentation from Bizios.Register for the free BioMed SA Innovation Award event for Dr. Rena Bizios Sept. 17: https://bit.ly/3fuySDV Click To Tweet
“We encourage people to register for our free event, it’s a great opportunity for people to interact with the thought leaders in our local healthcare and bioscience industry,” Hanson said.
Bizios came to San Antonio almost 15 years ago because UTSA was starting a new biomedical engineering program, presenting an irresistible opportunity to educate more students, she said.
“I chose to move into this field because of its potential. There are so many questions that still needed to be addressed.”
Featured image is of a medical implant in a patient’s shoulder. Image credit: Startups San Antonio.