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Biomedical Engineering Professor Receives Grant to Advance Musculoskeletal Research – University of Arkansas Newswire

Assistant Professor Rebekah Samsonraj
Rebekah Margaret Samsonraj, assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, has received a grant from MTF Biologics, a global nonprofit organization that supports innovative research in orthopedics and wound care.
Samsonraj received an MTF Junior Investigator Grant Award totaling $74,975 to conduct research on allogeneic cell transplantation for musculoskeletal regenerative medicine. The field still lack a solid strategy to ensure successful stem cell treatments for orthopedic issues ranging from fractures that are difficult to heal to osteoarthritis. Most studies yield suboptimal treatment outcomes due to use of cells unverified for potency.
Samsonraj collaborates with Justin Zhan, professor of computer science, to develop a novel testing approach applying omics and machine learning to screen for suitable donors of bone marrow and fat tissue. Research outcomes will lead to increased accessibility, affordability and cure rates for patients needing stromal cell therapies, thus reducing overall health care burden and clinical management costs while providing improved treatment outcomes with best-in-class cellular products. Derived knowledge from bone marrow cells will bolster further investigations on mesenchymal stromal cells from fat and umbilical cord shown useful in musculoskeletal repair.
"We treasure this funding from MTF Biologics because it flows from the generosity of health care philanthropists who are passionate about reinvesting in research and supporting academia, thus enabling researchers to advance the science of transplantation. This competitive grant from MTF Biologics will advance our research efforts in stromal cell genomics and big data-driven biomarker translation. Our interdisciplinary research has the potential to transform clinical practice in allogeneic donor selection, cell preparation and biomanufacturing," said Samsonraj.
Samsonraj has been leading research efforts in the field of cellular therapy and therapeutic cell manufacturing ever since her doctoral studies. Her growing laboratory collaborates with physicians and researchers across the nation and is driven to accelerate the science from the bench to bedside.
"We are excited for this new funding source for Dr. Samsonraj's innovative approach in musculoskeletal research," said Raj Rao, professor and head of biomedical engineering. "Not only does Dr. Samsonraj collaborate with faculty members from other departments, but she also works to continuously expand the funding portfolio to include federal, industry and nonprofit sources. She demonstrates how a junior faculty member can create a niche for the specialized research one wants to accomplish through pairing with colleagues from different fields and searching out foundations to support one's work."
More news about the Department of Biomedical Engineering can be found at biomedical-engineering.uark.edu.
Alex Wayne, manager of operations
College of Engineering
479-718-3374, alwayne@uark.com
Jennifer P. Cook, director of communications
College of Engineering
479-575-5697, jpc022@uark.edu
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