Materials Research Science and Engineering Center
Graduate Student

Stephanie McNamara
Harvard Medical School
School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

Stephanie McNamara is a joint Ph.D and M.D. candidate at Harvard's John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and the Harvard Medical School.

The goal of her graduate research is to investigate the mechanisms underlying mechanical stimulation-induced skeletal muscle regeneration in collaboration with David J. Mooney and Conor J. Walsh in IRG3 of the MRSEC. Severe skeletal muscle injuries impact a large patient population. The limited healing capacity of these injuries results in fibrosis and scarring leading to incomplete functional recovery. Mechanical manipulation of tissue via massage therapy has been widely used as a non-invasive treatment for healing muscle injuries. However, the connection between massage and tissue repair at a cellular level is poorly understood. Recent work has highlighted a link between the immune response in muscle injury, and the ability of the muscle to heal under mechanical stimulus. Her work aims to understand how mechanical stimulation impacts interactions between immune and muscle stem cells.

Stephanie's experience in biological engineering research has given her the necessary skills to carry out this work. As an undergraduate student at Tufts University, she spent five years conducting basic biology research to investigate the role of the Wnt signaling pathway in tumor progression and angiogenesis. Through that work, she acquired skills in cell culture, viral vector development, protein expression analysis, RNA sequencing, and in vivo animal work in transgenic and immune-compromised mice. Her undergraduate training in biomedical engineering led directly to her Masters research in designing biomaterial systems to guide bone and cartilage regeneration. Her experience with tissue engineering and materials science from the Masters work laid the solid groundwork for her graduate studies of immune-guided regeneration of injured skeletal muscle under mechanical stimulation.