Alan Grodzinsky, ScD accepted the ORS/OREF Distinguished Investigator Award during the ORS 2019 Annual Meeting. Professor Grodzinsky is the Director of MIT’s Center for Biomedical Engineering, and is Professor of Biological, Electrical and Mechanical Engineering in the Departments of Biological Engineering (BE), Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) and Mechanical Engineering (ME).
What is your specific area of research?
Osteoarthritis, Post-Traumatic OA and Joint Injury on Earth and in Space; Diagnostics, drug discovery and Drug Delivery for OA/PTOA; Cartilage tissue engineering and regeneration; Molecular NanoMechanics: AFM-based molecular mechanical properties of tissues, matrix proteins and proteoglycans; Mechanobiology of cartilage and tendon; Cell and Tissue Biomechanics.
What are you currently working on?
We are developing and using in vitro models of injury and degradation of cartilage, bone, tendon and other joint tissues. Most recently, we developed a cartilage-bone-synovium explant co-culture system that was just launched to the International Space Station National Laboratory (ISS-NL) on SpaceX-17 this past May 4 for a 3-week experiment. Joint injury on earth often leads to post-traumatic osteoarthritis, even in young adults, and there are no currently approved disease modifying drugs to prevent the associated joint degradation and associated chronic pain. On the ISS, our microphysiological explant system is used to model the complex interactions between bone, cartilage, and synovium, subjected to the microgravity and radiation of space. The use of 1g-control instrumentation on the Space Station (in the Multi-use Variable-g Platform made by Techshot, Inc., which enables automated medium transfer) also allows us to isolate the effects of radiation and the associated reactive oxygen species that may be induced in the tissues. Treatment conditions also include the use of selected therapeutics to ameliorate cartilage and bone degradation, which we hope will help our understanding on Earth as well as in Space.
What effect has winning this award had on your career/your research?
It was an absolute thrill to receive the award! This is a further testament to the incredible contributions of our research staff and the over 50 PhD students and 25 postdocs who have worked and trained in our lab over the past many years.
What advice would you give investigators who are just starting out in the field?
Please work only in areas and on projects that completely drive your interest and curiosity, and only with people who you really care for!
Is there anything in your career/research that, if you had it to do over, you would change?
I’ve only been at MIT for 54 years (starting with freshman year in college). Many people debate the benefits of moving around and changing locations and perspectives. Sometimes inertia is an extraordinarily powerful force! Maybe the next time around will be different!
What do you like to do for fun?
Music, music, music. I used to play viola in freelance string quartets and banjo in folk groups around Boston, until the time sink of academia became unbreakable.
What was the last book you read for fun? Would you recommend it?
Two books: Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery, by Astronaut, Scott Kelly and Indivisible by Four: A String Quartet in Pursuit of Harmony by Arnold Steinhardt, former 1st violinist of the Guarneri String Quartet.