Under the leadership of Chandan Sen, vice chair of research at IU School of Medicine’s Department of Surgery, IU is developing technologies and therapies to help heal burns, address diabetic complications, and treat injured soldiers.
The new IU Center for Regenerative Medicine and Engineering employs more than 40 scientists and staff. Center scientists support four central research pillars, with teams focused on cell-based therapies; tissue engineering; wound, burn and inflammation; and military health.
“We may soon have the ability to reprogram the cells in the human body,” said Sen, whose team is also laying the groundwork for the nation’s first Ph.D. program in regenerative medicine and engineering. “We can make a skin cell make functional blood vessels or other tissue required for therapeutics. Ultimately, this technology could help us rescue organ function lost to aging or trauma.”
Sen and his team have developed a nanochip device that uses tissue nanotransfection (TNT) to reprogram one type of tissue into another using nothing more than a simple touch and an electric spark. With TNT, researchers have converted skin tissue in mice into functional blood vessels that fostered the healing of a badly injured leg. Related experiments show promise in other animal models.
“The stakes for patients are enormous,” Sen said. “We’re building a technological platform that will make it possible to take tissue reprogramming to the bedside. Our approach does not require sophisticated laboratory or hospital infrastructure. It may even allow scientists to develop and grow replacement organs using a patient’s own cells.”
“Regenerative medicine is a complete new platform in healthcare,” Sen continued. “It has implications across the entire spectrum of medicine, and this is just the beginning.”
Sen’s research team is part of IU’s Precision Health Grand Challenge initiative, which aims to prevent and cure diseases through a more precise understanding of the genetic, behavioral, and environmental factors that influence a patient’s health.
The premise of precision medicine is that by understanding how social and physical environments, cultures, behaviors and genetics relate to the health of Hoosiers, researchers can tailor treatments and develop more individualized ways to prevent disease. Understanding the behavioral and environmental factors that influence the health of Indiana residents is the work of the Person to Person Health Interview Study. IU is surveying 2,000 Hoosiers over two years to begin answering these critical questions.