Jennifer Puetzer, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering | B.S. Biomedical Engineering, NC State | Ph.D. Biomedical Engineering, Cornell University


Dr. Puetzer focuses on musculoskeletal tissue engineering for meniscus, tendon, and ligament replacement and repair.




Dr. Puetzer joined VCU in January 2018 as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering with an affiliate appointment in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Her research focuses on musculoskeletal tissue engineering for meniscus, tendon and ligament replacement, with particular interest in collagen fiber formation, bone integration, and aging. See our lab website for more information on our current research interests.

Industry Expertise


Areas of Expertise

Extracellular matrix biology
Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine
Collagen Fiber Development
Musculoskeletal Mechanobiology


UK Regenerative Medicine Platform Special Merit Award


Whitaker International Program Fellowship


Wake Forest Institute of Regenerative Medicine Young Investigator Award, TERMIS


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North Carolina State University


Biomedical Engineering


Cornell University


Biomedical Engineering


Cornell University


Biomedical Engineering


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Selected Articles

Physiologically Distributed Loading Patterns Drive the Formation of Zonally Organized Collagen Structures in Tissue Engineered Meniscus

Tissue Engineering


The meniscus is a dense fibrocartilage tissue that withstands the complex loads of the knee via a unique organization of collagen fibers. Attempts to condition engineered menisci with compression or tensile loading alone have failed to reproduce complex structure on the microscale or anatomic scale. Here we show that axial loading of anatomically shaped tissue-engineered meniscus constructs produced spatial distributions of local strain similar to those seen in the meniscus when the knee is loaded at full extension. Such loading drove formation of tissue with large organized collagen fibers, levels of mechanical anisotropy, and compressive moduli that match native tissue. Loading accelerated the development of native-sized and aligned circumferential and radial collagen fibers. These loading patterns contained both tensile and compressive components that enhanced the major biochemical and functional properties of the meniscus, with loading significantly improved glycosaminoglycan (GAG) accumulation 200–250%, collagen accumulation 40–55%, equilibrium modulus 1000–1800%, and tensile moduli 500–1200% (radial and circumferential). Furthermore, this study demonstrates local changes in mechanical environment drive heterogeneous tissue development and organization within individual constructs, highlighting the importance of recapitulating native loading environments. Loaded menisci developed cartilage-like tissue with rounded cells, a dense collagen matrix, and increased GAG accumulation in the more compressively loaded horns, and fibrous collagen-rich tissue in the more tensile loaded outer 2/3, similar to native menisci. Loaded constructs reached a level of organization not seen in any previous engineered menisci and demonstrate great promise as meniscal replacements.

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Induction of Fiber Alignment and Mechanical Anisotropy in Tissue Engineered Menisci with Mechanical Anchoring

Journal of Biomechanics


This study investigated the effect of mechanical anchoring on the development of fiber organization and anisotropy in anatomically shaped tissue engineered menisci. Bovine meniscal fibrochondrocytes were mixed with collagen and injected into molds designed to produce meniscus implants with 12 mm extensions at each horn. After a day of static culture, 10 and 20 mg/ml collagen menisci were either clamped or unclamped and cultured for up to 8 weeks. Clamped menisci were anchored in culture trays throughout culture to mimic the native meniscus horn attachment sites, restrict contraction circumferentially, and encourage circumferential alignment. Clamped menisci retained their size and shape, and by 8 weeks developed circumferential and radial fiber organization that resembled native meniscus. Clamping also increased collagen accumulation and improved mechanical properties compared to unclamped menisci. Enhanced organization in clamped menisci was further reflected in the development of anisotropic tensile properties, with 2–3 fold higher circumferential moduli compared to radial moduli, a similar ratio to native meniscus. Ten and 20 mg/ml clamped menisci had similar levels of organization, with 20 mg/ml menisci producing larger diameter fibers and significantly better mechanical properties. Collectively, these data demonstrate the benefit of using bio-inspired mechanical boundary conditions to drive the formation of a highly organized collagen fiber network.

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High Density type I Collagen Gels for Tissue Engineering of Whole Menisci

Acta Biomaterialia


This study investigates the potential of high density type I collagen gels as an injectable scaffold for tissue engineering of whole menisci, and compares these results with previous strategies using alginate as an injectable scaffold. Bovine meniscal fibrochondrocytes were mixed with collagen and injected into micro-computed tomography-based molds to create 10 and 20 mg ml−1 menisci that were cultured for up to 4 weeks and compared with cultured alginate menisci. Contraction, histological, confocal microscopy, biochemical and mechanical analysis were performed to determine tissue development. After 4 weeks culture, collagen menisci had preserved their shape and significantly improved their biochemical and mechanical properties. Both 10 and 20 mg ml−1 menisci maintained their DNA content while significantly improving the glycosaminoglycan and collagen content, at values significantly higher than the alginate controls. Collagen menisci matched the alginate control in terms of the equilibrium modulus, and developed a 3- to 6-fold higher tensile modulus than alginate by 4 weeks. Further fibrochondrocytes were able to reorganize the collagen gels into a more fibrous appearance similar to native menisci.

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