The pioneering research by Anseth and others in tissue engineering, a relatively new field, offers the hope of starting new models for healing. "I am convinced that in our lifetime we're going to see more clinical therapies that use tissue engineering strategies to at least improve quality of life, if not completely heal us," she says.
ANSETH'S BARRIER-BUSTING research career parallels the rise of tissue engineering, a term that didn't exist a little over a decade ago. The area combines a dizzying number of specialties, including bioengineering, chemical engineering, molecular and cellular biology, biochemistry, and physics.
It requires researchers like Anseth and Rice University's Kyriacos Athanasiou to not only reach across disciplines but to think about problems in new ways within their own areas of expertise.
Athanasiou, whose work has yielded 28 patents and 12 products approved by the Food and Drug Administration, began researching cartilage in 1989. "All of my work in what I would call the early stages of tissue engineering cemented in my mind the view that we can harness the ability of cells to make tissues in vitro," he says, "and then one could go about regenerating tissues that normally could not be regenerated on their own."