Elizabeth R. Kapasa

Elizabeth R. Kapasa

Profile

In 2013 Elizabeth graduated with a First Class Honours degree in Biomaterials Science and Tissue Engineering (MEng) from the University of Sheffield. During her degree she was awarded a scholarship from the Wellcome Trust to take on a summer project, investigating the effects of interleukin-10 on glial activation following a peripheral nerve injury at the School of Clinical Dentistry, University of Sheffield. For Elizabeth’s final year project she developed a biodegradable electrospun scaffold that could simultaneously release ibuprofen for skin tissue engineering to treat chronic wounds, which was supervised by Prof Sheila MacNeil. 

Currently, Elizabeth is pursuing a PhD which is part of the White Rose Doctoral Training Centre in Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine that is funded by the EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council). More recently Elizabeth was awarded a JSPS (Japan Society for the Promotion of Science) Summer Fellowship that was jointly funded by the British Council to meet and work with her collaborators, Professor Okano’s group at TWIns in Tokyo, Japan (click here for report). 


Aside from her PhD, Elizabeth is keen to encourage young people to discover that we interact with the feats of engineering daily, and that engineering is a wide field with plenty of specialties. Her exceptional commitment and enthusiasm for engagement earned her the prestigious Sheffield Graduate Award Santander Prize for 'Engagement with the Wider Community' in 2013 of £500 (1 of 6 annual prizes at the University of Sheffield). Elizabeth is an official national STEM ambassador, and was successfully chosen to lead a University of Sheffield Women in Engineering project. This project was funded £2000 to write and publish a children's book to distribute for free to local schools and libraries in Sheffield. In June 2014, Elizabeth won the national 'I'm an engineer get me out of here’ competition in the Artificial Body Zone to gain an additional £500 (funded by the Wellcome Trust) to take this project national. In addition, Elizabeth was interviewed by ITN productions for the IET (The Institution of Engineering and Technology) programme 'Engineering Our World' (see from 3:00), where the book was taken into a local school to read with children and do engineering-related activities. This book has become the heart of the University of Sheffield’s #EngineeringIs campaign in order to tackle the shortage of engineers; this was launched at the UK Houses of Parliament Nov 2016. Suzie & Ricky is available as an e-book and has its own website (including a cartoon, 4 online games, and printable resources), and a virtual reality game; soon it will be an app! We are expanding this project nationally and internationally to other English-speaking countries first, before translating the book into other languages including Spanish, Italian and Chinese. There are even discussions of turning Suzie & Ricky into a play in China. Excitingly we are working on sequels to turn Suzie & Ricky into a series! Elizabeth has recently won the IPEM Spier’s Prize for Outreach 2017 for her contribution to promoting bioengineering. Furthermore, Elizabeth was awarded a Women of Achievement Award 2018 for being an exemplary female role models to inspire other staff and students in their career development; her portrait photograph is installed as part of a permanent exhibition in Parkinson Court.

Research interests

As life expectancy is increasing we are discovering the reality that the joy of living longer inevitably comes with the deterioration of our bones and increased chances of malfunction or loss of bone. Our continuously ageing population suffers from bone damage caused by trauma, cancer, congenital defects or common age-associated diseases, such as osteoporosis. In 2020 the direct medical costs of osteoporotic fractures in the UK is predicted to reach over £2.2 billion (1). Current treatments are inadequate and have limitations; therefore there is an urgent clinical need to develop alternative approaches to efficaciously repair bone. Cell sheet (CS) engineering is a novel technology that uses temperature-responsive culture dishes to provide intact monolayer sheets of confluent stem cells by simply altering the temperature. Multilayer cell sheets (MLCS) involve stacking these monolayers to make a 3D tissue graft. CS technology has many advantages compared to conventional approaches and cell culture methods that can engineer efficacious 3D tissues which can be used to restore normal function to damaged tissues. MLCS are already being clinically translated in regenerative therapies for other tissue types. Therefore this research will work in collaboration with the pioneering research group of this technology (Professor Okano’s group at TWIns in Tokyo, Japan) to develop MLCS for bone to meet the growing demand for bone regeneration from our ageing population. MLCS technology is a novel solution for bone regeneration that could be patented and clinically translated, which would directly improve the patient’s quality of life and consequently help relieve the related social and economic burden on our society. 

References

  1. Burge, R.T. et al. The cost of osteoporotic fractures in the UK: projections for 2000-2020. Journal of Medical Economics. 2001, 4(1-4), pp.51-62.

Qualifications

  • First Class Honours Masters Degree in Biomaterial Science and Tissue Engineering (MEng)

Research groups and institutes

  • Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering