From Director Nora Sarvetnick, PhD
Regenerative medicine is considered by many, to be one of the most important fields in 21st-century medicine. I am honored to have the opportunity to be involved in this cutting edge scientific field that holds so much potential to help those suffering from acute and chronic conditions. The Nebraska Regenerative Medicine Project will become a new center of excellence at UNMC, allowing us to make an impact on disease and patient care while enhancing the economy of Nebraska by offering more jobs and research income for the university.
Researchers at UNMC have been pioneers in the use of peripheral stem cells and bone marrow transplantation to treat patients and I am excited to expand on this and other clinically relevant research. The field of regenerative medicine involves innovative medical therapies that enable the body to repair, replace, restore and regenerate damaged or diseased tissues and organs. It encompasses a variety of research areas including cell therapy, tissue engineering, biomaterials engineering, growth factors, and transplantation science. UNMC's numerous clinical and scientific strengths will be further advanced through the collaborations of this project.
In order to move forward and be successful, several areas of growth have been identified for this project:
- Pancreas Development & Diabetes– islet cell replacement or regeneration therapy may offer therapeutic benefit and perhaps a cure for people with diabetes. By understanding the processes involved in cell growth and response we hope to develop pathways to produce new, functional beta cells, which are depleted or destroyed in type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
- Bone Development and Remodeling– Re-growing limbs and appendages has been a foresight of the future but is now coming to life through advances in Regenerative Medicine.
- Intestinal Cell Biology– Many children are affected by intestinal failure each year, and there is considerable morbidity and mortality associated with intestinal failure. Waiting for a small bowel transplant can be fatal, but with the hopes presented by Regenerative Medicine therapies, sections of new intestine could be grown and used as a temporary fix for children waiting for a transplant or to repair the damaged organ completely.
- Cardiovascularrepair – more than 1.5 million people in the United States suffer from a heart attack each year. Tissues for heart valves and prosthetic patches for the aorta could be grown using the person’s own stem cells, which would lessen the chance of transplant rejection.
- Liver Development and Repair– chronic hepatitis C is the 10th leading cause of death among adults in the United States and one of the most common reasons for liver transplants. Even then, the virus may attack the new organ. Hepatic cells that are resistant to viruses like hepatitis could be engineered to protect the new liver.
A necessary component for the success of this project is clinical translation. Without the help of involved/collaborative clinicians here at UNMC we cannot bring our current research into the clinic. By taking a collaborative, interdisciplinary group approach we have identified critical problems in different organs or diseases and work out ways to solve them. We hope to help grow the field of Regenerative Medicine at UNMC, but also give both junior and senior faculty the chance to participate in research and therapy development. By focusing on adult and embryonic stem cell research and utilizing UNMC’s new Biologics Production Facility, we hope to develop new treatments that move quickly into clinical trials.
There are several avenues of Regenerative Medicine that will require many more years of research, but as we want to focus on developing therapies that can help treat patients now. Our goal is to conduct outstanding basic research that will result in therapies and biomaterials that can be manufactured and applied in our community hospitals and facilities. We are very excited about this new adventure, and have been working hard to establish the infrastructure of this project. We look forward to making Regenerative Medicine a successful part of UNMC.