BME Ph.D. candidate awarded NIH F31 NRSA Fellowship

Jessica Aldrich, Ph.D. candidate in the Sharma and OrthoBME labs, received a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) Individual Predoctoral Fellowship (Parent F31) for her project “Manganese dioxide as a nanozyme to mitigate oxidative stress in osteoarthritis.”

The prestigious fellowship covers full tuition, stipend, and educational expenses. Aldrich’s project mentors include BME faculty Drs. Blanka Sharma and Kyle Allen. She will also work collaboratively with Dr. Terence Ryan from the department of Applied Physiology and Kinesiology. The impact of this work is to further develop a nanozyme (enzyme mimicking nanomaterial) treatment system for osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis is the leading cause of disability in the US and there are currently no available treatment to stop or slow the progression of disease. This is where the MnO2 nanoparticles Aldrich works with come into play. “MnO2 is a really elegant therapeutic, it acts as both a drug delivery system and a therapy all in one.” Aldrich’s goal is to use the MnO2 NPs to slow the progression of osteoarthritis following a traumatic knee injury. She is particularly interested in how this treatment could be translated for use with female athletes in high school and college who are at higher risk of traumatic injuries such as ACL tears.

“I love that I get to merge my passion as a lifestyle athlete with the long term goals of my research. Through the work proposed in the F31, I’ll be able to understand the molecular mechanisms behind how these nanoparticles are working and if they have an impact on the progression of OA after an injury.”