RIT faculty member becomes fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering

Professor of biomedical engineering awarded highest distinction for research to improve degenerative disc disease

Travis LaCoss/RIT

Karin Wuertz-Kozak, a faculty member in Kate Gleason College of Engineering, was recently inducted into the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering College of Fellows in recognition of her pioneering work to improve degenerative disc disease.

Karin Wuertz-Kozak, a faculty researcher at Rochester Institute of Technology, was recently inducted into the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) College of Fellows. Becoming an AIMBE Fellow, one of the organization's most prestigious honors, signifies inclusion among the top 2 percent of medical and biological engineers, representing the most accomplished individuals across academia, industry, education, clinical practice, and government.

Wuertz-Kozak, a Kate Gleason Endowed Professor in RIT’s Department of Biomedical Engineering, was recognized for her outstanding contribution to understanding the pathophysiology of degenerative disc disease and to developing new therapeutic strategies for disc disease. She brings an interdisciplinary background to her work with experience in pharmacology, biomedical engineering, and biology, as well as business administration. Her clinical collaborations are worldwide, spanning locally with the University of Rochester to the Fukushima Medical University in Japan.

“Karin is conducting important research that will ultimately improve the quality of life for individuals suffering from degenerative disc disease,” said Doreen Edwards, dean of RIT’s Kate Gleason College of Engineering.“We are thrilled that she is being honored with this prestigious award.”

Wuertz-Kozak is leading research on the role and effects of mechanical loading in the context of back pain. Understanding the mechanisms leading to degeneration and chronic inflammation can give clues to relieving disc-related back pain and is a crucial part of developing novel, molecular treatment options for patients, she said.

One promising approach being developed by her research team is to modulate and control tissue inflammation and induce regeneration is through extracellular vesicles (EVs) derived from CRISPR-modified stem cells. While stem cells have proven successful in the regeneration of many tissues, the intervertebral disc constitutes a drastically harsh cell environment, making EV therapy a promising alternative to cell therapy. To this end, she has received several significant research grants from prominent agencies such as the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

A longtime member of several national and international associations, Wuertz-Kozak has held leadership positions with the International Society of the Study of the Lumbar Spine and the Orthopedic Research Society. Among her many academic achievements, Wuertz-Kozak has been recognized by the Swiss National Science Foundation Professorship Award in 2016 and received a Faculty Scholarship Award as part of RIT’s Kate Gleason College of Engineering in 2021. She has published more than 90 peer-reviewed articles and has contributed to numerous journals related to molecular science and biomedical engineering in editorial roles and as a reviewer.

AIMBE Fellows are employed in academia, industry, clinical practice, and government., and consist of distinguished medical and biological engineers including three Nobel Prize laureates and 22 Presidential Medal of Science and/or Technology and Innovation awardees. Each has led initiatives to pioneer new and developing fields of technology, making major advancements in traditional fields of medical and biological engineering, or developing/implementing innovative approaches to bioengineering education.


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