UA professor at forefront of biomedical research

By Spencer Skolnick, Writer


Dr. Marnie Saunders is a biomedical engineer who works in UA’s research lab. Along with her graduate students, she hopes to develop mechanical devices that test the reactions they have with bone cells to measure the effect on the cellular activity of bones.

Saunders studies the reactions bone cells have to different types of stressors with building mechanical loading devices that stimulate cell activity. This research is performed to test the cellular environment of bones and study bone growth and damage.

“If you alter the cell environment, you can understand how it changes,” Saunders said. The main focus of her studies deals with the alteration and stimulation of cells, studying the damage signals and restoration process.

In Saunders’ lab, they use a process called biomimicry, which mimics cell environments and interactions in order to present a better replica of cell activity in the lab. Saunders’ research is directed at studying the process of cell growth and stimulation. This enables her to relate her studies to certain issues with bones, such as osteoporosis, in hopes of learning more about the makeup of cells, presenting an insight into the bone disease that causes decay.

Understanding the general environment and simulation of bone cells and studying them in a controlled environment is a way that Saunders and her students measure the activity of bone adaptation to the mechanical devices they build for lab.

With focused efforts on the development of the biomimetic devices, Saunders and her team are successfully able to stimulate bone cells in their lab. Goals of predicting the response of bones to the mechanical loading devices are in place, with hopes of being able to relate this research to the real environment of cell structures.