Dr. Lowe, Dr. Purnell, Phil Robilotto, Dr. Bettes, and Dr. Blackman (left to right) presented Mirdamadi with an award certificate.

The PhD candidate’s project focuses on developing regenerative implants for large bone defects that cannot heal on their own.

Photo: Eman Mirdamadi, third from left, is presented an award certificate by, from left, Tao Lowe, Jeff Purnell, Phil Robilotto, Rebecca Bettes, and Melissa Blackman.

Eman Mirdamadi, a bioengineering PhD candidate in the University of Maryland School of Dentistry (UMSOD) and the A. James Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP), was awarded first prize in the 2024 Graduate Translational Research (GTR) competition.

Mirdamadi works in the Biomaterials for Translational Research Laboratory of Tao Lowe, PhD, the Frederick G. Smith, MS, DDS and Venice K. Paterakis, DDS Endowed Professor in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at UMSOD, and professor in the Fischell Department of Bioengineering at UMCP. Mirdamadi’s project focuses on developing regenerative implants for large bone defects that cannot heal on their own.

These large bone defects, known as critical-sized bone defects, require costly and complex surgical procedures with high post-operative complication rates. By leveraging low-cost 3D printing alongside the Lowe lab’s nanotechnology platform, the team Mirdamadi works with is hoping to create a more effective solution for patients suffering from large bone defects. The results of this work have the potential to significantly impact the field of orthopedics, providing an innovative, scalable, and robust solution using clinically accepted materials for bone regeneration.

“Our solution uses 3D printing to create complex bone implant geometries using safe, bone-promoting, and biodegrading materials and nanotechnology to provide a suitable drug delivery vehicle,” Mirdamadi said. “The nanotechnology, which adheres to the implant, is used to protect and enhance the function of a regenerative bone therapeutic while controlling the therapeutics release rate and mitigating its potential adverse side effects. Through the combination of these two technologies, we have established a strong and innovative platform to robustly heal bone in preclinical rodent models.”

The vision for this project builds upon a project established by Lowe and Michael Hartman, DMD, MD, a clinical instructor in oral and maxillofacial surgery at UMSOD. Lowe and Hartman wanted to devise a way to 3D print implants, which can be shaped for myriad bone defects, using bone allograft while also slowing down allograft resorption in the human body.

In the course of advancing this project, Mirdamadi explained that the team found that traditional bioprinters were not reliable enough to print their hybrid material. The team enlisted the assistance of the Fischell Institute for biomedical devices to create an alternative, more effective strategy of printing the hybrid material. Using the Fischell Institute’s resources, and the UM Ventures, Baltimore 3D Prototyping Lab — located on the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) campus — the team devised a method of printing its hybrid allograft material using a filament extruder and commercial 3D printer. This method created the bone implant shapes much more effectively and seamlessly.

After the 3D printing method was established, the team continued working on strategies to enhance the regenerative function using the Lowe lab’s nanotechnology platform, eventually landing on a solution that appears to be effective.

“The 3D prototyping project we worked on with Eman was really interesting and presented some exciting challenges,” said Ryan Smith, medical device prototype engineer for the UM Ventures, Baltimore 3D Prototyping Lab. “In addition to creating the printing method, we had to develop a method for creating our own custom material. It’s definitely not a project that comes along every day. Eman had great insight and ideas on how to approach the project and overcome the hurdles we encountered.”

All of this hard work is paying off. The project has received funding support from the Maryland Stem Cell Research Fund (MSCRF) with Lowe as the principal investigator.

Mirdamadi and Lowe think this project could be commercialized with five potential products: the hybrid bone filament material; 3D-printed allograft and polycaprolactone (PCL) hybrid constructs; the lyophilized growth factor-loaded nanogel technology; a 3D-printed allograft and PCL construct embedded with the growth factor-loaded nanogels; and the potential to add stem cells into the fourth product.

In addition to Lowe and her lab, Mirdamadi’s project was supported by:

  • Masahiro Iwamoto, PhD, the Maxwell Hurston, MD Distinguished Professor of Orthopaedics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine
    • Iwamoto’s lab helped significantly in the execution of in vivo studies involving the implantation and evaluation of the team’s 3D-printed bone implants in rodent models.
  • Michael Hartman, DMD, MD, clinical instructor in oral and maxillofacial surgery at UMSOD, and Mark Reynolds, DDS, PhD, MA, dean and professor of biomaterials and regenerative dental medicine at UMSOD
    • Hartman and Reynolds provided feedback on the important clinical implications of the 3D-printed, growth factor-loaded nanogel-containing, allograft-PCL construct technology for bone regeneration.
  • Additionally, Iwamoto, Hartman, and Reynolds were co-investigators on the MSCRF grant, and Hartman also is a co-inventor with Lowe on a UMB patent application for the 3D-printed allograft-PCL construct technology.
  • Ryan Smith, medical device prototype engineer for the UM Ventures, Baltimore 3D Prototyping Lab; Quinn Burke, faculty specialist and engineer in the Robert E. Fischell Institute for Biomedical Devices; and Sam Meyr, MPowering the State student entrepreneurship fellow in the Robert E. Fischell Institute for Biomedical Devices
    • Smith, Burke, and Meyr worked with the team to set up the 3D-printing method and helped with deeper characterization studies of the 3D-printed bone constructs.

Mirdamadi has been working in tissue engineering and biomaterials research for a decade, with most of his work focused on using 3D printing to fabricate artificial tissue constructs from biomaterials deemed challenging for the field. This is important because addressing these challenges provides a framework for developing alternative sources of functional tissue and organ implants. Over these years, Mirdamadi has developed a core expertise with 3D printing to fabricate engineered musculoskeletal and cardiac constructs for myriad clinical applications. After his PhD work, Mirdamadi sees himself continuing in this industry.

“I truly enjoy solving big-picture problems in health care and have thrived on advancing bioengineered technologies that can be used for real-world applications,” Mirdamadi said. “I hope to become a leader in the health care manufacturing space helping to provide clinically translatable solutions.”   

“Eman is a persistent, critical thinker with an entrepreneurial drive and intrinsic capability of conducting independent research,” Lowe said. “His dedication and technical and communication skills will serve him well in his career. I have no doubt that he will accomplish his goal of being an impactful scientist in the interdisciplinary fields of biomaterials, drug delivery, nanotechnology, and regenerative medicine.”

Presented in coordination with the University of Maryland Graduate School’s annual Graduate Research Conference, the GTR award is made in recognition of important translational research performed by a UMB graduate student or postdoctoral fellow. It embodies the mission of UM Ventures, Baltimore to translate outcomes from basic research into real-world applications.

This year’s judge panel included Jeff Purnell, PhD, senior licensing officer; Melissa Blackman, PhD, senior licensing officer; Rebecca Bettes, MS, MBA, senior licensing officer; and Nancy Cowger, PhD, executive director of licensing and alliances. Competition was significant again this year, with 15 qualified applicants from the schools of medicine, pharmacy, and dentistry. Our judging team also was impressed by the skillful conference presentations of this year’s applicants.

Purnell, who advises Lowe on the development of new technologies arising from her research, said, “We’ve seen Eman and the team overcome experimental hurdles and achieve positive results during the course of the project. It’s gratifying to be able to highlight his accomplishments with the GTR award.”

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