Researchers at the Indiana Center for Regenerative Medicine and Engineering at Indiana University School of Medicine are looking to recover muscle tissue and function that has been lost due to trauma and help return muscle function back to normal.
The ICRME is a multidisciplinary research center focused on the development of novel technologies that regenerate cells and tissues affected by age, disease, damage, or congenital effects, ultimately leading to wound care and healing for patients in Indiana and beyond.
A recent discovery award from the U.S. Department of Defense will award the ICRME $315,000 for two years to research “Activating fetal regeneration in adult tissue”.
We sat down with Chandan Sen, PhD, the director of the ICRME, to discuss what the discovery award means for the center and the future of regenerative medicine.
What is the research supported by the discovery award research aimed at achieving?
The problem we are trying to solve is called volumetric muscle loss. Volumetric muscle loss is where skeletal muscle has been lost because of trauma. For example, if you were to lose a marble-sized piece of muscle from the gastrocnemius muscle of your leg, which is part of the calf muscle, you could lose up to 50 percent of the muscle function even if you have a the test of the muscle intact.
How are you looking to solve the issue of volumetric muscle loss?
So, the question is, how can we bring back the muscle function? Because again, if you lose a small percentage of muscle during an accident or some sort of trauma, you could lose a large portion of the muscle function. As an example, the marble-sized piece of tissue in the gastrocnemius muscle may only represent one-tenth of the muscle, but the muscle may lose 50 percent of its function.
What we are looking to do is to fill in the muscle loss with tissue including muscle and recover the use of the whole muscle as much as possible.
Much research involves fetal tissue, and regenerative medicine often deals with stem cells. Will this research involve fetal tissue or stem cells?
No, we are not using any animal fetal tissue at all in the research. We are simply using the knowledge of the regenerative mechanisms that happen in the fetal stages of life. When humans or animals are in the fetus stage, there is a rapid phase of growth. As many know, when we are young, our body is a lot better at repairing itself, and that ability degenerates with age.
We want to recapitulate fetal growth and repair mechanisms in the adult body that has been injured.
What technology are you utilizing for this research?
We are using the Tissue Nanotransfection Technology or TNT, which we are the proprietary holders of the technology. TNT has two major components—first, a nanotechnology-based chip with many microscopic needles that are designed to deliver a cargo of cells into the body. Second, a specific biological cargo for cell conversion allows such cargo, when delivered, to convert an adult cell from one type to another.
This research is unique, and the first of its kind because this is the first time we are working with muscle cells.
How will this research help in advancing regenerative medicine?
This shows that our Tissue Nanotransfection Technology can be used on different tissues and may have other novel applications that may be used to treat a wide variety of other medical issues.
The second thing is that this particular technology can be used at the point of care. It does not require any heavy equipment or large medical devices. The device is less than 100 grams and can fit in the pocket of an individual. This makes it very suitable for use in a field-setting.