New Clarkson biologist looking to cure your aching back
Saturday, January 26, 2013 - 4:23 pm

POTSDAM -- The new Clarkson University biology department chair is looking for a cure for one of mankind’s persistent complaints, lower back pain

Thomas Lufkin, who joined Clarkson University’s faculty in January, is researching how to eliminate the pain Americans spend over $30 billion annually to treat.

“It’s a really huge problem economically and also in terms of patient suffering,” Lufkin said. “This is worldwide. Everybody has this problem.”

Lufkin is the new Bayard and Virginia Clarkson Endowed Chair of Biology at Clarkson. He moved to Potsdam from Singapore, where he had served as senior group leader of stem cell and developmental biology at the Genome Institute of Singapore since 2004.

Lufkin is focused on an area of regenerative medicine that will benefit large segments of the population.

Curing lower back pain could start simply by swabbing a patient’s mouth for cells, Lufkin said. He is researching ways to alter those cells and re-grow spinal discs that have deteriorated in lower back pain sufferers.

“It’s not hundreds of people you’re helping with this or thousands,” he said. ‘It’s millions of people who will want this.”

In Singapore, Lufkin helped develop the formula to repurpose cells for different parts of the body. His research at Clarkson will ensure the altered cells are a perfect match for the lower back. Lufkin says he looks forward to collaborating with students and professors throughout the University.

Lufkin received his bachelor of science degree in cell biology from the University of California, Berkeley and his doctoral degree in molecular biology from Cornell University. He completed postdoctoral research at the Laboratory of Molecular Genetics of Eucaryotes, Strasbourg, France.

Lufkin has five patents and was the recipient of a March of Dimes award and an Alfred P. Sloan research fellowship in neuroscience.

He is the editor-in-chief of the Cell and Developmental Biology Journal and serves on the editorial board of a dozen other scientific journals, including the American Journal of Stem Cells, the Journal of Regenerative Medicine and Tissue Engineering, and the Journal of Stem Cell Research & Therapy.

Lufkin has received numerous grants from the National Institute of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the March of Dimes, and is the author of more than 100 peer-reviewed publications.