Alejandro Almarza, PhD






566 Salk Hall
3501 Terrace Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15261



Assistant Professor

Department of Oral Biology, School of Dental Medicine

Department of Bioengineering, Swanson School of Engineering

Research Interests

Biomechanics of the Temporomandibular Joint:  Understanding the normal biomechanical properties and joint mechanics/motion of the Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) will be paramount for determining diseased states and to start elucidating the progress of Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMDs).  Few studies have correlated the mechanical properties (under tension, compression, shear) of the different structures of the TMJ to each other, such as the bones of the mandibular condyle and glenoid fossa and their respective fibrocartilages, along with the TMJ fibrocartilaginous disc.  This biomechanical knowledge would also allow for the creation of relevant finite element models to assess the contribution of the different structures.  Further, whole diarthrodial joint mechanics/ motion need to be determined to assess the appropriateness of current reconstructive techniques.

Tissue Engineering Approaches for the Temporomandibular Joint:  The goal of this research is to utilize novel tissue engineering techniques, such as ink jetting of nanostructured materials, gene delivery therapies, and stem cells application, for bone and fibrocartilage tissue engineering applications.  Ink jetting will allow for reconstruction of the original 3D structure of the TMJ tissues, while controlling at the nanoscale the deposition of bioactive molecules and/or cells.  Further, gene delivery will elicit the appropriate response from seeded or migrating cells to recapitulate the original tissues.  Additionally, mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are capable of dividing and differentiating into bone, cartilage and fibrocartilage cells.  These MSCs also secrete a variety of cytokines and growth factors, known as trophic factors, that suppress the local immune system, inhibit scar formation and apoptosis, enhance angiogenesis, and stimulate mitosis and differentiation of tissue-intrinsic reparative or stem cells.

Selected Publications

Almarza AJ, Augustine S, Woo SL-Y.  “Changes in Gene Expression of Matrix Constituents with Respect to Passage of Ligament and Tendon Fibroblasts,” Annals of Biomedical Engineering, 36(12): 1927-33, 2008.

Nguyen TD, Liang R, Woo SL-Y, Burton SD, Wu C, Almarza AJ, Sacks MS, Abramowitch SD.  “Effects of Cell Seeding and Cyclic Stretch on the Fiber Remodeling in an Extracellular Matrix-Derived Bioscaffold,” Tissue Engineering Part A, 15(4): 957-63, 2008.