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Ameer Receives Prestigious NSF Award

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August 1, 2006 | by Megan Fellman

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Guillermo Ameer, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Northwestern University, whose research could ultimately play an important role in reconstructive knee surgery, has received a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award from the National Science Foundation, the agency's most prestigious award for new faculty members.

Ameer will receive $400,000 over a five-year period from the NSF in support of his project titled “Biodegradable Elastomeric Composite Scaffolds for Ligament Reconstruction.”

His research focuses on developing new biomaterials for tissue and organ replacement. The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is the most commonly injured ligament in the knee, resulting in at least 150,000 reconstructive surgeries each year in the United States and health care costs in the billions of dollars. The number of procedures is expected to grow due to a significant rise in the aging population and the increased prevalence of sports-related trauma. Limitations with existing reconstruction grafts and procedures have prompted an interest in tissue engineering approaches.

Using his CAREER award, Ameer's goal is to engineer and characterize an off-the-shelf ACL using novel materials based on citric acid, which Ameer developed in his lab. The materials are compatible with various tissues and organs and are biodegradable, elastic and strong. Once implanted in the joint, the engineered ACL is expected to remodel into a functional biological ligament.

Ameer's CAREER project also includes an educational component that involves the training of high school science teachers and the development of new tissue engineering teaching modules to enhance the learning experience in the science classroom.

Ameer also recently received one of 10 grants awarded for the first time by the State of Illinois to fund adult stem cell research.

The CAREER program recognizes and supports the early career-development activities of those teacher-scholars who are most likely to become the academic leaders of the 21st century. CAREER awardees are selected on the basis of creative, career-development plans that effectively integrate research and education within the context of the mission of their institution.