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Ashley Vu’s Three Minute Thesis

Essential Elements, Vitamins, and Natural Medicinal Additives in Calcium Phosphate Ceramics for Bone Tissue Engineering

As the saying goes, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Millions of patients worldwide suffer from invisible ‘sticks and stones’. Things no one else can see but cause immense pain, trauma, and heavy economic burden. These physical barriers manifest as bone defects and disorders. Examples include osteosarcoma (bone cancer), congenital defects, and serious injury. Osteoporosis, a disease which causes porous and fragile bones leading to high risk of fracture, affects more than 3 million Americans annually. Our work is multidisciplinary, combining medicine, engineering, chemistry, and physiology to aid in bone healing and combat these maladies.

Essential elements like zinc and silicon, vitamins such as vitamin D and vitamin A, and natural medicinal additives like garlic and oregano can increase osteogenesis (bone formation) and reduce osteoid lysis (bone loss). These additives are fabricated into ceramic coatings and scaffolds to be used in various bone replacement applications such as total hip and knee arthroplasties and dentistry.

We aim to reduce healing times as well as give back mobility and full activity for younger patients. We intend to reduce postoperative infections that could lead to severe, costly revision surgeries. We strive to achieve improved osseointegration between our bodies and medical implants. We provide the tools to help patients battle the invisible fight.

Ashley Vu is a 4th year Ph.D. candidate in Mechanical Engineering within the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering. She received her B.S. in Mechanical Engineering and M.S. in Materials Science and Engineering, both from Washington State University. Ashley has also been an instructor for the Voiland College of Engineering & Architecture, instructing ENGR 120 for the last 4 years. Her research interests include calcium phosphate bone tissue engineering scaffold fabrication, induction plasma spray deposition of bioceramics, and implant modification for drug delivery.