Prof. Levenberg received her PhD in 1999 from the Weizmann Institute of Science, where she specialized in Molecular Cell Biology and Cell Adhesion under the supervision of Prof. Geiger.
During her PhD, she studied signaling in cell adhesion complexes, focusing on cell-cell interactions. She demonstrated that local stimulation of adhesion receptors, such as cadherin and integrin, stimulates signaling events affecting the assembly of their respective adhesion complexes throughout the cell. She has also identified and characterized the involvement of cell cycle control-related proteins in such signaling events.
As a young postdoctoral fellow (supported by a long-term EMBO fellowship) at Professor Robert Langer’s group at MIT, her aspirations to explore cell and tissue organization processes led her to design human embryonic stem cell (hESC)-based models which focused on investigating vascularization evoked during tissue formation.
Her research demonstrated differentiation of hESCs into endothelial cells (EC) and in vivo formation of vessel-structures, which appeared to integrate with host vasculature upon implantation on polymeric scaffolds (PNAS 2002). In addition, she successfully engineered human tissue constructs by seeding differentiating hESCs onto biodegradable 3D polymer scaffolds and further inducing their differentiation and 3D organization into tissue-specific structures (PNAS 2003).
Prof. Levenberg ongoing projects at the Technion encompass interdisciplinary research of tissue engineering, stem cells and biodegradable scaffolds.
The rapidly increasing demand for organ and tissue transplantation has promoted tissue engineering and stem cell research. Tissue engineering harnesses the product of concomitant culture of cells, growth factors and 3D scaffolds for repair and regeneration of biological tissues.
To advance the clinical relevance of engineered tissue, scaffold properties must be optimized for each application and cell type. External forces may also contribute to cell and tissue organization and can be applied via appropriately designed bioreactors. Furthermore, vascularization must be induced to allow survival and function of the implant. Co-culture approaches tailored to induce multicellular cell-cell interactions are therefore required to allow organization of complex tissue structures.
In 2006, Prof Levenberg was nominated a Research Leader in Tissue Engineering by the Journal Scientific American. This was granted in recognition of her breakthrough discoveries relating to vascularization of engineered tissues, as demonstrated in engineered skeletal muscle tissue constructs that contained endothelial blood vessels. These results were first published in Nature Biotechnology in 2005 and demonstrated that upon implantation, the engineered vessels anastomosed with the host vasculature and improved survival and perfusion of the engineered graft.
These discoveries have laid the foundation for successful production of both engineered vascularized cardiac muscle tissue and pancreatic islet constructs. Upon their implantation in rodent models, anastomosis of construct-host vasculature was observed and correlated with improved graft survival and perfusion.
Understanding these vascularization mechanisms is currently the focus of a number of ongoing projects in her lab. Other projects focus on the impact that scaffold mechanical properties bear on the fate of cell differentiation and organization. Her group has demonstrated for the first time the effect of scaffold stiffness and tensile forces on organization and early differentiation of embryonic stem cells in 3D constructs.
As a member of the Technion Interdisciplinary Nanotechnology program, Levenberg continues to combine biology and engineering disciplines in development of micro-bioreactors designed to support stem cell growth and manipulations. She focuses on utilizing microfluidics as a novel biotechnology platform for biomedical device and tissue engineering applications. Her lab also developed a new nanoliter droplet microarray, which enables prolonged culture of single adherent and non-adherent cells and allows tracking of single cell metabolism and dynamics. It is also used as a nanoliter arrays for rapid antimicrobial susceptibility testing.
Prof. Levenberg holds the Stanley and Sylvia Shirvan chair in cancer and life sciences. She currently serves as the Dean of the Biomedical Engineering faculty of the Technion Israel Institute of Technology. She also serves as the director of the Technion Center for 3D Bioprinting and The Rina & Avner Schneur Center for Diabetes Research
Levenberg works have been published in peer-reviewed articles in leading international journals. Levenberg et al. (PNAS, 2003) appeared in the list of 20 most-cited papers on human embryonic stem cells (hESC) during 1998-2004. Levenberg et al. (Nature Biotechnology, 2005) was designated a landmark paper is Nature Biotechnology.
Prof. Levenberg was invited as plenary, keynote lecturer in leading international meetings. She has also actively participated in organizing several international conferences, as conference organizer or an advisory board member.
Prof Levenberg received the BIKURA grant, which is an annual grant awarded by the Israel Science Foundation and limited to a single outstanding young Israeli researcher. In 2006 Prof. Levenberg was awarded the Krill Prize of the Wolf Foundation for excellence in scientific research. In 2007 she was granted The Henry Taub Prize for Academic Excellence and in 2008 – the France-Israel Foundation Prize for scientific excellence in stem cell research.
In 2009 she received “The Excellence for Israel Prize” in Rome, presented by the Italian Minister of Culture and in 2011 was awarded the ERC starting grant to support her research on vascularization of engineered tissues. In 2012 Prof. Levenberg was granted the Juludan Prize for excellence in scientific research and was included in The Marker “Israel Sharp Minds” list of the year. In 2013, she was nominated as the Woman of the Year by Emuna Foundation, Israel’s largest women’s religious organization and was ranked as one of 10 scientists of 2013 by Maariv newspaper. In 2014 she was ranked by the Israel Ministry of Education- as one of 10 top Israeli women in science and technology
Both in 2016 and 2017 she received “the Raine Medical Research Foundation Award”, and in 2018 she received “The Rappaport Prize for Biomedical Sciences” for advanced researcher. In 2019 she received the Bruno prize from Israel Institute for Advanced Studies (IIAS) The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Teaching and Community Service
Prof. Levenberg is actively engaged in international and national scientific societies and she is also engaged in science-oriented activities, such as talks for academic students, high school students and the general public.
She is involved in encouraging young women to take part in scientific and engineering education and career. During the last years, she has served as a member of the Israel National Bioethics Committee.