Creating new biomaterials is like doing puzzle, says Lucy Vojtová

Twenty years ago Lucy Vojtová was accepted to Columbia University in the United States to a postdoc position. Three years in US changed her life and led her to tissue engineering and designing biomaterials for medicine. Today, together with her team, she works on project focused on things like regeneration of skin or creation of replacement of intervertebral disc. Starting this year she also leads her own research group Advanced biomaterials at CEITEC BUT. 

 Lucy Vojtová leads the research group Advanced Biomaterials at CEITEC BUT

In 2011 Lucy Vojtová was among the first scientists hired fulltime to CEITEC BUT. “We had an opportunity that doesn´t come along every day. We could design the labs exactly as we needed. However, at the same time we had to guarantee to be able to finance them. It was difficult because all the planning and building took three years and I had to know what tables, extractors, plugs we need, what machines and technologies we will buy. And most importantly I had to design the labs to fit the future needs and projects which I didn´t have at that time,” recollects Lucy Vojtová. 

She kept the labs even now when after seventeen years she became independent and started her own research group. “I wanted to keep them as they are almost like my children. I invested so much time and effort into their creation. I also wanted to be in charge of the financial part since I know I have enough projects now to keep the labs running and pay my team,” explains Vojtová why she decided to start the group Advanced biomaterials. 

Twenty years of research to build on 

Her research group has to know how to imagine, design and create new biomaterial. “We also take into account things like durability. If the material should be degradable in the body, we have to design it with perfect timing. If it dissolves faster, the bone itself doesn´t restore enough. If it is there longer than it should, it will stand in a way of natural body processes,” points out Lucy Vojtová. She also adds that although it seems that they only solve interesting projects with specific applications, they build on twenty years of basic research. “We have started just recently with applied science. Until now we studied synthesis of polymers, characteristics of individual materials, interactions among different materials and all the things that we can base our research on,” says Vojtová. 

When creating new materials and processes the group gets inspiration primarily from nature. “We imitate biological processes. Even nature builds bottom-up, meaning it puts together molecules and one by one builds the entire material. We observe what is going on in our body, what it consists of and if we can imitate it chemically, structurally and functionally. When developing new materials and processes I can lean on years of experience and research. Therefore, for me, creating new materials is like doing puzzle. It is similar to composing music. I still enjoy it very much. And knowing that it helps improve people´s health is my engine,” adds Lucy Vojtová. On top of all her research, project and management work she still finds the time to raise her future colleagues and successors. Fact that she is doing well is proven by recent Werner von Siemens award received by Veronika Grézlová for her master thesis led by Lucy Vojtová. Awarded student now continues her work with Vojtová as PhD student. For Josef Hlávka award is nominated a recently defended thesis by Veronika Štrublová and this award has been already received by Lenka Michlovská in year 2009. Michlovská is also one of six successful students who received their PhD for their research in Lucy Vojtová´s group. 

International cooperation is a must 

Among some of the projects the research group works on belongs for example development of skin replacement. In cooperation with the Clinic of Burns and Reconstructive Surgery of the University Hospital in Brno they work on a material that could serve for regeneration of skin. Modern way of wound coverage and skin inflammation treatment offers a project of innovative hydrogel. Other projects are focused on things like advanced homeostatics, regeneration of spine and intervertebral disc replacement or so called bone cement. “With such a multidisciplinary research one cannot lock himself into the quietness of his office. We use the strong base of CEITEC BUT and Brno but we cannot do without out colleagues in Prague, Vienna, Sheffield or Barcelona. Nowadays there is no other way for progress,” concludes Lucy Vojtová. 

Author: Zuzana Pospíšilová