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Natalie Artzi, PhD
2020 Winner: Natalie Artzi, PhD

Research Scientist, Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Assistant Professor, Harvard Medical School
Principal Research Scientist, Institute for Medical Engineering and Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Healing infected bones: An advanced technology for treating posttraumatic osteomyelitis

The treatment of infected bone defects remains a troublesome problem in the field of orthopaedics. Bacteria can hide from the host immune system by incorporating itself within the surrounding, healthy cells of the infected defect. This process of intracellular incorporation may be one of the critical mechanisms of its resistance to intravenous antibiotics, and its resistance to host defences including engulfment by white cells.

In this next phase of work, Artzi’s team aims to develop a hydrogel-based patch that combines three advanced technologies to fight bone infections:

  • Bactericidal silver-coated gold nanorods (Au/Ag NRs) are tasked to kill extracellular and intracellular bacteria without the need for antibiotics, along with ablation-mediated bacterial killing via the rod-shaped gold nanoparticles-mediated conversion of near-infrared laser radiation into heat;
  • Macrophage-polarizing cytokines enhance the body’s own immune system to help fight off the infection while repairing of the surrounding damaged bone; and
  • Localized gene delivery provides the surrounding bone cells with regenerative cues.

Artzi and her team anticipate that using bactericidal silver-coated gold nanorodswill provide superior treatment outcomes for posttraumatic osteomyelitis as compared to standard fixation and intravenous antibiotics. Equally important is the team’s unique understanding of the role the immune system plays in fighting bacteria and regenerating bones, which will inform future treatment design and therapies.


Natalie Artzi, PhD, is a research scientist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, a principal research scientist at the Institute for Medical Engineering and Science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and an associate member of the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT. Leveraging material science, chemistry, imaging, and biology, Artzi’s lab is dedicated to designing smart material platforms and medical devices to improve human health. Her pioneering work, which focuses on the basic understanding of tissue: biomaterial interactions, has changed the way we view and develop materials as part of a diagnostic and therapeutic toolkit. By studying these interactions, the team seeks to propel technologies from bench to bedside in clinically-relevant conditions.

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