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Huinan Liu

Associate Professor of Bioengineering
Huinan Liu
Engineering Absorbable Medical Implants
Medical implants play a critical role in helping patients recover from serious injuries, but they often require secondary surgeries to adjust or remove them later on. Huinan Liu’s lab is working to create implants and devices that are made of materials that can break down naturally in the body over time. In addition, these materials can aid in the healing process, providing essential nutrients to the body as they are absorbed. Her research has profound implications for reducing medical costs, accelerating recovery and improving the quality of patients’ lives.

Areas of Expertise

Areas of Expertise:
  • Biomaterial guided tissue regeneration
  • Ceramic nanoparticles
  • Degradable polymers
  • Nanocomposites
  • Resorbable metals
  • Surface treatment for medical implants and devices
  • Controlled drug delivery
  • Stem cell therapy
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Select Honors and Distinctions

  • Materials Science and Engineering C Young Researcher Award, Elsevier, Presented at TMS meeting in San Antonio, TX, 2013.
  • Scientist Development Award, American Heart Association, 2012.
  • Hellman Fellowship Award, Hellman Foundation, 2012.
  • Academic Senate Regents Faculty Fellowship Award, University of California, 2012.
  • Burroughs Wellcome Fund (BWF) Collaborative Research Travel Grant, 2012.
  • National Science Foundation BRIGE Award, 2011.
  • International Journal of Nanomedicine Merit Award, Dove Medical Press, Presented at BMES meeting in Hartford, CT, 2011.
  • MARC/SRC Faculty Travel Award, Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), 2011.
  • Acta Annual Award for Primary Contributions to the Paper Published in Acta Biomaterialia, The Acta Journals, 2009.
  • Sigma Xi Outstanding Graduate Research Award for Contributions to Future Science and Technology, 2008.
  • Graduate Excellence in Materials Science (GEMS) Award, The American Ceramic Society, 2008.
  • The Joukowsky Family Foundation Outstanding Dissertation Award, Brown University, 2008.

Q&A

Q: What is the goal of your research?
My research mostly focuses on developing new biomaterials, particularly bioresorbable materials that can be used for tissue regeneration. In addition to breaking down naturally in the body over time, bioresorbable materials can provide helpful nutrients to the body as they degrade, repairing damaged or injured tissues and facilitating in the healing process. These materials are ideal for implants and medical devices.

Q: Why is your research important?
Many of the materials currently used in medical devices are non-degradable. In other words, once a clinician has implanted one of these devices in the body, it remains there permanently unless the patient undergoes a secondary surgery to remove it. We’re working to develop novel bioresorbable devices and materials that naturally degrade and disappear after they have helped repair the damaged tissues. These materials are composed of minerals such as magnesium and calcium, which play important roles in the bone healing process. This research could greatly reduce healthcare costs, assist in the healing process and spare patients the trouble and complications associated with follow up surgical procedures.

Q: Can you describe some of the possible applications for these materials?
There is a long list of potential applications for bioresorbable materials—orthopedic implants, spinal implants, cardiovascular devices to name a few. There are millions of people that currently have spinal implants such as spinal disks, cages and screws. A majority of the materials currently used in those devices are permanent, so if there’s a complication, or if the patient requires a revision surgery, a surgeon has to go in to take those devices out. But with our materials, after the disk has regenerated and the bone has fused, the material can naturally degrade into the body.

Q: What is the goal of your research?
One of our long term goals is to be able to control the properties of the materials we’re using, including how they degrade in the body, how they interact with our cells, and how they can facilitate the healing process to regenerate tissues.

Q: What inspired you to study resorbable medical implants and devices?
My background is in materials science, and I realized there was an opportunity to help others by applying my knowledge and experience in the medical field. These implants have the potential to reduce pain, reduce medical complications, cut down on unnecessary secondary surgeries and healthcare costs, and improve the quality of a patient’s life. I saw an opportunity to have a huge impact on the world around me.

Q: What are the next steps for your research?
We’ve already done a lot of research on how these materials will interact with the cells in the body. Our next step is to work with our industry partners and clinicians to use these materials in the next generation of medical devices and implants.

Q: Why is UCR a great place to do research?
I really love working at UCR because we have fascinating and wonderful facilities at our disposal. In addition to my lab, we have access to the Stem Cell Core Facility, Nanofabrication facility and the state of the art Microscopy Core Facility—all of which make my research possible. In addition, there’s a great interdisciplinary environment at UCR which encourages faculty to collaborate on research. My research required close collaboration with clinical researchers and our newly funded School of Medicine.
Huinan Liu “I want to improve the quality of patients’ lives by helping them get better.”

—Huinan Liu
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