A University of Auckland scientist investigating a novel way of delivering stimuli to stem cells in order to better understand how they replicate and grow has been named a Rutherford Discovery Fellow for 2016.
Lecturer in Chemical & Materials Engineering at the Faculty of Engineering Dr Jenny Malmstrom is developing an artificial tissue surface in the laboratory to carry out the research.
The funding for the research is up to $800,000 over five years.
Stem cells have enormous potential for medical therapies because they have the ability to multiply and renew themselves as they develop into specialist cells with a particular biological function.
But scientists do not yet understand the complex biological processes that act on stem cells to make them behave the way they do.
Two factors are understood to have some impact, one is how stem cells are regulated by the mechanical properties of surrounding body tissue and the other is how they are controlled by signalling molecules known as “growth factors”.
The surface of the artificial tissue that Dr Malmstrom is developing will be constructed so that cells will have to physically stick to its surface, a process known as adhesion, in order to gain access to these growth factors.
The study is expected to reveal links between cell adhesion and growth factor signalling. The increased understanding of stem cells is expected to have impact for medical treatments using stem cells.
Dr Malmstrom is an associate investigator at the MacDiarmid Institute and received her PhD in Nanoscience from the University of Aarhus, Denmark.
“I am delighted to have received this Fellowship and the support it will provide for my work,” she says.
The Rutherford Discovery Fellowships are administered by the Royal Society of New Zealand to support early- to mid-career researchers.
This is the second science award for Dr Malmstrom this month after she was awarded a Fast-Start Marsden Grant of $300,000 over three years.
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