Dr. Cato T. Laurencin

Lab Notes – Fall 2017

E-Cigarettes Not a Safe Alternative

Using a new low-cost, 3-D-printed testing device, UConn researchers found that e-cigarettes loaded with a nicotine-based liquid are potentially as harmful as unfiltered cigarettes when it comes to causing DNA damage. The researchers also found that vapor from non-nicotine e-cigarettes caused as much potentially cancer-causing DNA damage as filtered cigarettes, possibly due to the many chemical additives present in e-cigarette vapors. Several factors impact the amount of DNA damage e-cigarettes cause, says Karteek Kadimisetty, a postdoctoral researcher in UConn’s chemistry department and the study’s lead author. “I never expected the DNA damage from e-cigarettes to be equal to tobacco cigarettes,” says Kadimisetty. “I ran the controls again. I even diluted the samples. But the trend was still there — something in the e-cigarettes was definitely causing damage to the DNA.” The findings appear in the journal ACS Sensors.

electronic cigarette


New Device Tests Heart Health

finger pricked with a spot of blood (for blood sugar test)

UConn researchers from the Department of Mechanical Engineering have developed a device that can test blood viscosity during a routine office visit. The heart must work harder to pump sticky — high viscosity — blood, and studies have shown thicker blood can indicate cardiac event and stroke risk. UConn associate professor of mechanical engineering George Lykotrafitis and doctoral candidate Kostyantyn Partola have filed a provisional patent on the small electronic device, which requires just a finger prick of blood, gives precise readings in minutes, and costs under $1,000. Currently, physicians must send large blood samples to off-site labs for analysis in a rheometer. “With this information, doctors can suggest simple lifestyle changes on the spot to prevent their patients from having a stroke or heart attack,” says Partola.


The Lack of Black Men in Medicine

Male african-american doctor

Medical school matriculation rates for black males have failed to surpass those from 35 years ago, according to a recent UConn Health analysis of data from the Association of American Medical Colleges. African-American men make up just 2.8 percent of the applicants to medical school. Out of all African-American applicants, only 38 percent are men, and black males who are unsuccessful in their first application are less likely to reapply than their white counterparts, the researchers write in the Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities. “The absence of Black males in medical school represents an American crisis that threatens efforts to effectively address health disparities and excellence in clinical care,” wrote authors Dr. Cato T. Laurencin and Marsha Murray.


Lifting Spirits Doesn’t Require Many Reps

25KG weight

More physical activity is not necessarily better when it comes to improving your mood, especially if you spend most of your day sitting, UConn and Hartford Hospital researchers found in a recent study. The work, published in the Journal of Health Psychology, found that people who led sedentary lives and engaged in light or moderate activity showed the greatest improvement in overall sense of well-being. Further, the study found no positive or negative association between high-intensity physical activity and subjective well-being, contradicting a widely reported recent study that found high-intensity workouts significantly lowered some people’s sense of well-being.

Honors Pour in for Leading UConn Surgeon-Scientist

Dr. Cato Laurencin


On the heels of UConn announcing The HEAL Project, an international grand research challenge aimed at regenerating an entire human limb, Dr. Cato T. Laurencin has learned in recent months that he’d be honored this year by several prestigious organizations and even the president of the United States.

UConn revealed on Veterans Day its plan to regenerate a human knee within seven years and an entire limb in 15. HEAL – Hartford Engineering A Limb – was the brainchild of Laurencin, whose laboratory research successes include the growth of bone and knee ligaments. Laurencin is a leading surgeon-scientist in orthopaedic surgery, engineering, and materials science, and a pioneer in the field of regenerative engineering.

Laurencin’s HEAL project aims to regenerate a human knee within seven years, and an entire human limb in 15 years.

The project is supported by Laurencin’s recent $4 million Pioneer Award from the National Institutes of Health, as well as his grant award from the National Science Foundation for Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation. Important support also comes from The Raymond and Beverly Sackler Center for Biomedical, Biological, Physical and Engineering Sciences at UConn Health, which Laurencin founded and directs.

“The launch of the HEAL Project is a transformative moment for science and medicine,” said Laurencin in November. “This is the first international effort ever for knee and limb engineering.”

In early December, it was announced that Laurencin would receive the 2016 Founders Award, the highest honor from The Society of Biomaterials. He will be honored for his landmark and long-term contributions to the field of biomaterials science at the 2016 World Biomaterials Congress in Montreal, Canada on May 18. At that same meeting, the Society for Biomaterials will introduce the Cato T. Laurencin, MD, Ph.D. Travel Fellowship, an endowed fellowship named in Laurencin’s honor.

A few weeks later, the White House said Laurencin would receive a National Medal of Technology and Innovation, the nation’s highest honor for technological achievement that is bestowed by the president on America’s leading innovators. This was the third time Laurencin received White House honors.

“I am honored to be receiving the highest award in our nation for innovative technological achievement and scientific excellence from our great country,” said Laurencin. “Receiving the Medal of Technology and Innovation is a tribute to the hard work that has taken place by our great team over the past 25 years. It inspires me to keep working hard to advance science breakthroughs in regenerative engineering for future therapies for my patients.”

And in the same month, Laurencin was named a foreign member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering. An election for life, Laurencin carries the title of Academician in China.

Laurencin is the eighth professor in UConn history to earn the highest faculty title, University Professor. He is also the Albert and Wilda Van Dusen Distinguished Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at UConn Health, and the founder of the Institute for Regenerative Engineering. Laurencin is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine and the National Academy of Engineering.