When biomedical engineering scientist Erin Lavik received the prestigious New Innovator Award last year from the National Institutes of Health for her work in advancing the development of synthetic (artificial) blood platelets, she was already becoming known in biomedical circles as a rising researcher.
Erin's laboratory at Case Western Reserve University, where she is currently an associate professor of Biomedical Engineering, was attracting attention for its focus on developing new approaches to understand and treat hemorrhaging, spinal cord injury, glaucoma, and diseases of the retina and optic nerve.
Recently (as noted by the New Innovator Award), she and her team at Case Western have received recognition for using nanotechnology -- an emerging scientific field that manipulates material on very small scales -- to build synthetic platelets of biodegradable polymers which are designed to link with the body's natural platelets to slow or stop bleeding faster after injury.
Says Erin: "We were looking for ways to control internal bleeding in our experiments, and we were stunned at how limited the options are, so we built our own system." Synthetic blood platelets made with nanoparticles may help slow internal bleeding, saving lives on the battlefield and following other traumatic injuries such as those sustained in auto accidents.
Can you think of some other applications for synthetic blood platelets?
Read more about AT&T sponsored Nifty Fifty program speaker Erin Lavik here.
And watch Erin's speech on tissue engineering and treatment of spinal cord injury: