Andreana Mello Panzo

School of Engineering – Mechanical Engineering

Research Project: Creating biomimetic tissue substitutes as an alternative to using animals to study myocardial infarction

When a person has a heart attack, restoring blood flow to the heart after a vessel has been blocked frequently results in tissue damage. Ph.D. candidate Andreana Panzo is working on a multidisciplinary research project that could lead to potential methods of preventing or remedying this damage. She is part of a research collaboration between multiple engineering disciplines at UConn, the UConn Health Center, and Harvard University.

The path to Andreana’s current research opened up for her when she took Intro to Tissue Engineering in the spring semester of her senior year at UConn, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering in 2012. The professor, Dr. Pinar Zorlutuna, recognized Panzo’s potential and invited her to begin working in her tissue engineering lab the following January. Andreana describes the opportunity as “life changing.”

The research involves engineering heart tissue inside a device that can control the input and output of fluids to create an environment that mimics a heart attack. If successful, this method could become a preferable alternative to using animals to study myocardial infarction. It would eliminate not only the time and expense of breeding the animals, but interference from other bodily tissues and the physiological differences between humans and animals.

In addition to her research, Andreana is also involved in the Student Association of Graduate Engineers (SAGE). This summer, as part of the daVinci Project, she led hands-on activities for high school teachers and introduced them to the workings of her lab. With Multiply Your Options, she plans to serve as a role model to 8th grade girls interested in engineering.

Besides science, Andreana enjoys the outdoors and is teaching herself to play the trumpet. The Orange, CT, native stays in shape by biking to school, running, swimming, and taking fitness classes.

After earning her degree, Andreana plans to travel extensively. In fact, she already has a trip to Brazil planned for next summer. She will visit Rio, the Amazon, and her family in Recife.

Although she isn’t sure whether she will ultimately work in an academic or industry setting, Andreana does know she wants to continue research in tissue engineering. “It’s so rewarding to work on better understanding a disease that affects so many people,” she says.

Adreana Panzo
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