Cancer treatments and 3D-printing bones: FIU’s accomplishments in STEM

Biomedical and mechanical engineering professor Anamika Prasad made ground-breaking progress in growing bone outside of the body. | Via FIU News

River Jean-Noel | Contributing Writer 

FIU faculty and students have been making headlines for strides in STEM research. Here are their most recent achievements. 

In the world of science and technology, FIU faculty Anamike Prasad has made advancements in developing a potential treatment for bone cancer. 

Prasad is a biomedical and mechanical and materials engineering professor in the College of Engineering and Computing. Prasad has been fine-tuning a device called a bioreactor that was previously developed by FIU researchers. 

Over the years, the bioreactor has been developed to provide optimal conditions to grow human bone cells outside of the body. The bioreactor is essentially a 3D printer. 

The cylinder-shaped device provides the perfect environment in which to grow bone tissue, as it mimics the natural environment within the body. 

Bone cell growths can remain viable within the bioreactor for up to a month. For scientists who need to study bone tissue and test treatments over a long period of time, this can enhance the process and quality of their research without relying on human subjects.

This project marks an exciting development in healthcare, as the implications of this device mean a new option for treatment of osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer. 

In chemistry, a second-year student has snagged an achievement coveted by even the most seasoned scientists. 

Sophomore Baylee Holcomb has recently been published under one of the most prolific academic journals in the industry, Nature Medicine.

Holcomb spent her freshman year working alongside FIU cancer researcher Diana Azzam on research that targeted relapsed pediatric cancers. 

In this study, Azzam and Holcomb focused on creating personalized cancer treatments. By sending a patient’s sample of an active tumor to Azzam’s lab, she was able to test the tumor against 120 different drugs and single out the ones most effective. 

One patient, Logan Jenner, known during the trial as “Patient 13,” displayed extraordinary improvements, and is now thriving with a customized treatment plan for his acute myeloid leukemia. 

Holcomb had the privilege of meeting Jenner, and she touched on how much the experience benefited her passion for her research.

“Meeting Logan was one of my favorite parts of this experience because it allowed me to see the success of the clinical trial,” Holcomb said.

The results of their trial on guided treatments for hard-to-treat pediatric cancers were recently published in Nature Medicine.  

“I feel so incredibly lucky that I was able to be a contributing author to this paper. I am speechless and astonished that I was able to be published in Nature Medicine, one of the most prestigious journals in the world,” Holcomb shared in an interview

FIU students and faculty continue to work on projects that contribute greatly to their respective fields.

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