Local research to grow organ tissue, shorten transplant waiting list

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GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Most of Priyanka Ruparelia's colleagues agree that she's onto something.

“It's kind of a new playbook. We're looking at things that have been touched upon, but not thoroughly studied,” Dennis LaJeunesse, associate professor of nanoscience at The Joint School of Nanoscience & Nanoengineering, said.

Ruparelia, a 23-year old Ph.D. student, is studying what could eventually become a medical breakthrough -- growing tissue for organ transplants.

“My aim at the end is if we can do anything related to 3D printing and organ transplant in the future,” Ruparelia said.

Ruparelia’s goal is to shorten the waiting period for people who need organ donors -- and quite possibly eliminate the donor waiting list altogether.

Her work is already getting attention.

In November, she won first place for the “2 Minutes to Win It” contest, an initiative where college students compete to sell business ideas.

Her idea of a nano bone implant, a naturally created bone implant placed on a broken bone to expedite the healing process, won first place.

Ruparelia says the response was overwhelmingly positive.

She is conducting research at The Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering, an academic collaboration from North Carolina A&T State University and The University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

“She's interested in how you can manipulate cells to lead to a better way of growing cells for tissue transplants,” LaJeunesse said.

“Sometimes it gets to be too much work, but whenever she is around she is like, ‘Look I can help you with this, I can help you with that,’” Ramakrishna Sharma, fellow nanoscience student, said.

Although the current research at the school is in its early stages, there is plenty of enthusiasm surrounding it.

“We are seeing some companies that are starting up from our students. We're seeing industrial folks coming and working with us,” Dan Herr, professor and nanoscience department chair, said.

Ruparelia moved from Mumbai, India, to study nanoscience in Greensboro.

She wants to start her own medical company one day.