Olivia Burnsed

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2 years 2 months
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Olivia is interested in the effects of both the structural and biochemical cues provided by the extracellular matrix on modulating cell phenotype and inflammation. She is currently working to create microcarriers to expand chondrocytes while maintaining their phenotype and direct the differentiation of stem cells. Olivia is also investigating the use of MSCs in combination with human amniotic membrane for osteoarthritis (OA) treatments in the context of modulating inflammation and OA progression.


Olivia Burnsed is a Bioengineering PhD candidate home schooled in the Biomedical Engineering Department. As an undergraduate at Georgia Tech, she was elected to the Biomedical Engineering Student Advisory Board by her BME faculty and served as the board's president her senior year. In this role, she organized the undergraduate-graduate student research connections poster session that connects undergraduates with graduate mentors in the biosciences areas. She continues to hold many similar leadership roles as a graduate student and is an officer in the Bioengineering Graduate Association. Olivia volunteers as a reviewer of undergraduate research proposals for Georgia Tech's President's Undergraduate Research Award and mentors three undergraduate researchers herself. Olivia is the Biomaterials Day Chair for the newly formed Georgia Tech Graduate Student Chapter for the Society for Biomaterials and wrote the approved grant to the national SFB chapter to host Georgia Tech's first every Biomaterials Day in the Fall of 2014 and 2016. In her spare time, Olivia volunteers as a west coast swing dance instructor at Atlanta Swing Dancers Club and Wicked Westie.

Thesis Project Title
Engineering an Improved Cartilage Repair Strategy Combining Cells and ECM-derived Materials
Thesis Project Description

Cartilage has a limited capacity to heal and regenerate due to its low cellularity and avascular nature. As a result, osteoarthritis (OA) affects nearly 27 million adults in the US and there are no clinically proven disease modifying therapies, leading to nearly half a million total knee replacements annually. Autologous chondrocyte implantation is the only clinically approved cellular therapy for chondral defects in the US, but the inability to expand chondrocytes to sufficient numbers without adversely affecting their phenotype remains a significant problem. Additionally, the multiple inflammatory mediators involved in the initiation and perpetuation of OA hinder the efficacy of cellular therapies. The inherent immunomodulatory capabilities of MSCs offer a potent alternative to conventional drug treatment regimens due to their ability to regulate multiple signaling pathways and cell types of innate and adaptive immunity. The primary objective of this study is to engineer an improved cartilage repair strategy by combining cells and extracellular matrix(ECM)-derived materials. Specifically, this work will (i) develop cartilage-derived microcarriers for chondrocyte expansion (ii) determine the effect of tissue-specific ECM-derived materials on the chondrogenesis, cell expansion, and secretion of anti-inflammatory factors, and (iii) characterize the effect of MSC delivery format, via single cells, spheroids, or ECM-derived microcarriers, on OA progression in a  post-traumatic small animal model. This work will increase the scientific community's understanding of the role of ECM-derived materials in influencing cell phenotype and expansion as well as the effect of culture format and delivery on MSC-mediated immunomodulatory activity.

Research Areas
Tissue Engineering & Regenerative Medicine
Stem Cell Engineering
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