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UTEP Awarded $300,000 for Research to Repair Cranial Defects

Dr. Malcolm Cooke, Mechanical Engineering Professor

September 5th, 2008

The College of Engineering at The University of Texas at El Paso has been awarded more than $300,000 to research materials and methods to repair critical cranial defects.

According to Dr. Malcolm Cooke, Mechanical Engineering Professor and Principal Investigator for the project, cranial defects are more common than most people realize. Cranial defects can be the result of bone loss due to the removal of tumors, skeletal trauma, or even congenital deformity. Currently these defects are repaired using inert materials that can’t integrate with and remodel the host bone.

The three-year project, funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), calls for developing layered manufacturing methods to construct a highly porous scaffold structure that will house bone cells and fits into the defect, encouraging bone to grow into the injury site.

“The idea is that ultimately the scaffold will go away,” said Dr. Cooke. “So the materials we want to use are not only biocompatible but also biodegradable. My research also includes developing cell structure techniques to make these scaffolds bioactive, which should speed up integration.”

Above: Dr. Malcolm Cooke holds a model of a prototype scaffold used to research methods to repair critical cranial defects.

Bone tissue engineering is a multi-disciplinary science and Dr. Cooke collaborates closely with Dr. Kristin Gosselink in Biological Sciences who will provide expertise vital to the success of the research.

Two UTEP graduate students (chemistry and biology) will be recruited to assist in the research, which will be carried out in UTEP’s Biosciences Research Building and the W.M. Keck Center for 3D Innovation, a world-class, state-of-the-art facility equipped with a wide array of layered manufacturing and computer-aided design technologies.