Morgan Pfaff

She’s building better bones while encouraging diversity in science

Bone is the second-most commonly transplanted tissue, and yet current bone graft procedures come with significant drawbacks. One option is to take bone from another part of the patient’s body, which can be painful. Another method is to harvest bone from a donor or cadaver, but this comes with risk of disease transmission.

Morgan Pfaff, who graduated this year with a degree in biochemistry, is developing a better solution. Working at the Directed Assembly of Particles & Suspensions Lab at Northeastern, Pfaff focuses her research on creating a synthetic material for bone graft applications. The material is known as dual network hydrogel. It contains tiny rods made of hydroxyapatite, which is a component of natural bone, making the hydrogel ideal for bone grafting.

We want this material to be something like a scaffold so your own native bone can regrow into it,” Pfaff says. She has worked at the lab for the past five years under the mentorship of Randall Erb, associate professor of mechanical and industrial engineering at Northeastern, and Jessica Faust, a post-doctoral researcher at Northeastern in the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering department.

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Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University.