Posted October 21st, 2014 by Erin Vollick

Tissue engineering pioneer Michael Sefton named to the U.S. Institute of Medicine

  • Michael Sefton

    This week, Engineering professor Michael Sefton was one of only a few Canadians ever inducted into the United States Institute of Medicine (Photo: Calvin Thomas).

This week, University Professor Michael Sefton (ChemE, IBBME) was invited to join the United States Institute of Medicine (IOM)—a rare honour bestowed upon few Canadian scientists and engineers.

Sefton is a global leader in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. His research tackles a question central to the field: how can scientists construct or grow blood vessels that will keep engineered tissues vital and alive?

Sefton is cross-appointed to U of T’s Department of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry and the Institute for Biomaterials & Biomedical Engineering (IBBME), as well as affiliated with the Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research (CCBR). He was among the first to demonstrate the significant synergy that was possible between chemical engineering principles and biomedical engineering.

Approximately fifteen years ago, Sefton’s group observed that a particular biomaterial “caused blood vessels to grow [as if] by magic,” he explained. “[But] since we don’t understand why we get blood vessels, it is difficult to exploit this phenomenon.”

He hopes that within the next few years his team will have unraveled the baffling mystery of blood vessel growth, allowing them to develop tissues with strong vascular functions. If successful, his research will significantly advance the field of tissue engineering.

“Professor Sefton has made tremendous contributions to the field of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine,” said Cristina Amon, Dean of the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering. “On behalf of the Faculty, my heartfelt congratulations for this richly-deserved induction to the prestigious Institute of Medicine.”

“I’m humbled by this honour,” shared Sefton, who now joins three other U of T professors who have been nominated since the Institute was established in 1970.

The IOM advises the U.S. government on scientific and medical matters, and has a mission to advance health care for the country. In 2011, the New York Times called it the “nation’s most and authoritative adviser on issues of health and medicine, and its reports can transform medical thinking around the world.” It is part of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, first chartered under President Abraham Lincoln in 1863.

“This is a well deserved honour for Professsor Sefton,” said Professor Grant Allen, chair of the Department of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry. “He is truly a pioneer in the application of chemical engineering principles to biomedical engineering, something that is now widely practiced around the world for the benefit of human health”.

Learn more about how U of T researchers are engineering your health.