WPI Symposium to Explore Therapeutic Plant Compounds and Engineered Blood Vessels


Worcester Polytechnic Institute's (WPI) Sigma Xi Chapter will present a symposium, "Partnering with Nature to Tackle Disease," which will showcase WPI research in new therapeutic uses of plant compounds and engineering of replacement blood vessels.


Biology and Biotechnology Professor Pam Weathers and Biomedical Engineering Assistant Professor Marsha Rolle.

Professor Weathers will discuss the use of the sweet wormwood plant (Artemisia annua) in treating disease. For centuries, the Chinese treated fevers with a tea brewed from Artemisia annua. But the active compound in this plant, artemisinin, is now known to be effective in treating malaria, many other parasitic diseases and some viruses. Artemisinin, along with other compounds found in this plant, may even be effective against a number of cancers. Although the compound is normally extracted from the plant and purified, WPI researchers have recently shown that there may be a more cost-effective way to use the plant for treating disease. This talk will explain how and where in the plant the drug is made, and how this medicinal herb may be more effectively used as a therapeutic.

Professor Rolle's topic will be the promise and challenges in vascular tissue engineering, which is a way to grow replacement blood vessels. Each year in the United States, hundreds of thousands of patients undergo coronary artery bypass surgery, require blood vessel grafts for dialysis access, or need other vascular surgical procedures. Replacement blood vessels for these surgeries are typically obtained by harvesting a vein or artery from elsewhere in the patient's own body. However, due to disease, advanced age or previous procedures, many patients do not have healthy blood vessels to donate. The growing need for replacement blood vessels has led physicians, engineers, and scientists to seek alternatives, including efforts over the past three decades to grow living vessels through tissue engineering. This presentation will provide an overview of the clinical needs, technical challenges, and state-of-the-art in vascular tissue engineering, as well as a brief overview of ongoing tissue engineering research projects at WPI.


Thursday, March 29, 2012, from 6 to 8 p.m.


Campus Center Odeum, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, 100 Institute Road, Worcester, Mass.

More Information: The event is free and open to the public.

About Sigma Xi at WPI

Sigma Xi was founded in 1886 to honor excellence in scientific investigation and encourage a sense of companionship and cooperation among researchers in all fields of science and engineering. Today, Sigma Xi is an international, multidisciplinary research society whose programs and activities promote the health of the scientific enterprise and honor scientific achievement.