ESB Mobility Award Winners – 2018

Laura Baumgartner

Laura Baumgartner graduated from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich, Switzerland with a Bachelor in Human Movement Sciences and a Master in Biomechanics. Focusing on a career in injury biomechanics, she got first research experience in the field of trauma biomechanics and accident reconstruction at the working group on accident mechanics (AGU) in Zürich, Switzerland. In 2016, she got accepted as a PhD-student at the Research Group for Computational Biomechanics of BCNMedTech. The thesis focuses on coupling biomechanics and mechanobiology to investigate microtrauma-processes within the human intervertebral disc on a multiscale level.

Planned Research Project

In-vitro experiments of bovine Nucleus Pulposus cells to examine cellular behavior ex-posed to different glucose concentrations and to the proinflammatory cytokine TNF-α

Thanks to the ESB Mobility Award for Young Researchers Laura will travel from the University Pompeu Fabra (Barcelona) to the Institute for Biomechanics at ETH Zürich, Switzerland. During 15 weeks, she will be working with Prof. Karin Würtz-Kozak . The general objective of the ESB mobility project is to obtain additional experimental data needed to better understand Nucleus Pulposus (NP) cell activity while exposed to a multifactorial cell environment, consisting of inflammation and nutritional / mechanical factors. 

Bovine NP cells will be exposed to different glucose concentrations or to the proinflammatory cytokine TNF-α. For comparative purposes, stimulus concentrations will be chosen to cope with typical concentrations previously used in experimental studies. Additionally, critical glucose concentrations as predicted by in-silico research will be taken into account. Cell activity will be measured in terms of mRNA expressions of the Extracellular Matrix proteins Aggrecan, Collagen Type I and II, the proinflammatory cytokines IL-1β, TNF-α and the proteases MMP3 and ADAMTS4. 

The obtained data will then be fed into an an Agent-Based (AB) multicellular model that Laura is developing during her PhD, aiming to simulate NP cell activity within a multifactorial cell environment by integrating experimental findings.


Johanna Melke

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Johanna is a PhD student from the TU Eindhoven (The Netherlands). She studied Molecular Bioengineering at Dresden University of Technology and obtained her Master’s degree in 2013 with a project on rapid bacteremia diagnosis, performed at Fraunhofer CMI in Boston, USA. In November 2013 she started her PhD in the group of Orthopedic Biomechanics in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Eindhoven University of Technology. The goal of her thesis is to pinpoint optimal culture strategies and identify relevant loading magnitudes that enable the development of bone-like tissue engineered constructs.

Planned Research Project

Mechanical loading of pre-vascularized tissue engineered bone

Thanks to the ESB Mobility Award for Young Researchers Johanna will travel from the Technische Universiteit Eindhoven to the National University of Ireland Galway. During three months, she will be working with Prof. McNamara.

This project focuses on vascularization within bone tissue engineered constructs, specifically how mechanical stimulation of bone and angiogenesis are coupled. A novel perfusion/compression bioreactor in combination with non-invasive 3D live-cell imaging will be used to monitor the development of vascular networks and bone tissue in 3D co-cultures under mechanical loading.