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UCLA Engineer Awarded NIH New Innovator Award to Develop Restorative Joint Implants

Tyler Clites

UCLA Samueli

Oct 4, 2022

UCLA Samueli Newsroom

Tyler Clites, an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering, has received a 2022 Director’s New Innovator Award from the National Institutes of Health.

The five-year, $2.4 million award  (with initial funding of $1.4 million for the first three years) will support Clites’ research on combining surgical and mechanical design to revolutionize limb salvage.

Clites, who also holds an appointment in the UCLA Department of Bioengineering and the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine, designs the implants by combining surgical and mechanical innovations in tandem — a field of study known as anatomics.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, chronic pain caused by arthritis affects millions of people in the U.S. every year. About one in four adults with arthritis  — 15 million people — report experiencing severe joint pain that affects their mobility. There are many who also suffer from reduced mobility due to an injury or other diseases that damaged their joints. Currently, there are no treatments that can fully remedy the damage to joints and connective tissues, meaning patients are often left to cope with limbs that are not fully functional. In some cases, the pain or loss of function is so great that the affected limb must be amputated.

Clites, who joined UCLA Samueli in 2019 and heads the Anatomical Engineering Group, aims to improve the quality of life for patients by restoring function of their injured limbs and possibly preventing the need for amputation and prosthetic limbs. Some of Clites’ collaborators include UCLA orthopedic surgeon Dr. Nelson SooHoo, mechanical and aerospace engineering professor Jonathan Hopkins and bioengineering professor Sophia Sangiorgio.

Established in 2007, the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award is part of the NIH Common Fund’s High-Risk, High-Reward Research Program to support exceptionally innovative high-impact research from early career investigators who are within 10 years of their final degree or clinical residency and have not yet received an NIH research project grant.

Natalie Weber contributed to this story.

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