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Cutting Edge Research

Dr. Stephanie Willerth has always been fascinated with how research intersects with technology. But, if someone told her fifteen years ago that she would be using 3D printing in research she says her response would have been "we have to finish sequencing the human genome first! I would also ask if I was using stem cells when printing tissues since I have been fascinated with them since high school."

Dr. Willerth bioengineers human neural tissues that are used to study a range of neurological conditions, including spinal cord injury.

After completing her postdoctoral studies in biomedical engineering in 2010, Dr. Willerth set up a lab at the University of Victoria to continue her research on tissue engineering, biomaterials and drug delivery.

By bioengineering neural tissue, Dr. Willerth is able to study how cells can be regenerated. To do this, Dr. Willerth relies on innovative 3D printing technology, developed by Aspect Biosystems, to print human tissue on-demand. Dr. Willerth is then able to study whether those cells can replace damaged tissue as a result of neurological conditions such as spinal cord injury or tested for efficacy and safety of certain drugs.

As an ICORD principal investigator, Dr. Willerth is able to leverage the collaborative spirit ICORD maintains with the Rick Hansen Institute and enables her to see how her work in the laboratory can impact people with spinal cord injury. "Working alongside like-minded individuals, I'm able to share strategies with peers, learn from mentors and really see the whole spectrum of how research translates into care."



Dr. Stephanie Willerth is an Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Victoria and a Principal Investigator at International Collaboration on Repair Discoveries (ICORD). She recently published a book entitled Engineering Neural Tissue Using Stem Cells published by Elsevier/Academic Press, which covers the topics necessary for understanding the nervous system and how stem cells can be used to create neural tissue.