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RCCC - Our Science

We study regenerative medicine to help heal injured service men and women. Regenerative medicine is a new way of treating injury and disease. Its goal is to restore both the shape and use of lost or damaged tissues and organs. The Rutgers Cleveland Clinic Consortium uses three careful plans of attack to do this: 1) transplantation of donor tissues from others, 2) biological methods using stem cells, and 3) biomedical engineering methods.

Transplantation replaces damaged tissues or organs with donor tissues. The goal of transplantation is to help warfighters who have suffered multiple or complicated wounds. However, transplantation comes with the burden of treatments to suppress, or knock down, the immune system. Without lifelong treatments, the patient’s body will reject the donor tissue. Recent research on the immune system has found new treatments that make it possible for the patient to tolerate donor transplants. These new therapies can stop tissue or organ rejection without suppressing the immune system. RCCC researchers expect these new therapies to become available within several years.

Biological methods using adult stem cells
Biological methods use cells to help regenerate damaged organs or tissues. Stem cells are cells that can divide and reform themselves into different kinds of cells. When cells are injected into organs or tissues, they can do many things to speed healing. Cells may make building blocks for tissue repair, and they also produce chemicals that speed the body’s natural repair process. Cell-based therapies can help normal healing. This can reduce tightening around scars and serve as a source of active cells that work on specific types of injuries. Stem cells are also helpful because they have the ability to change as they grow and develop.

Many cell therapies using cells from the patient are currently in clinical use and testing. The best cell source is likely fatty tissue. Fatty tissue is preferred because the cells are easy to harvest and most people have enough of this tissue type. Transplanting a patient’s own cells is better than using cells taken from others, because donor cells may have only a short-term benefit. RCCC believes that within the next five years, we will get much closer to a clinically useful therapy that injects a patient’s own stem cells, particularly stem cells from fatty tissue.

Biomedical engineering methods
Tissue engineering is a research area that combines cell biology, engineering, and biochemistry to help replace, repair, or regrow injured or diseased tissues. The final goal of tissue engineering is to grow or reconstruct parts of the body, such as arms and legs, or organs. Modern science has not progressed to the point that we can reach this goal in AFIRM’s first five years. But, RCCC is already taking many small steps toward this goal. Many of the research projects described on this website are focused on methods for reconstructing major gaps in bone, nerve, muscle and tendon tissues. These severe defects in limbs and face are often caused by blast injuries, and they can leave a wounded warrior with limited use of his or her body, and daily challenges to independence.

The RCCC research program involves 25 teams that are working on solutions for the wounded warrior. Visit the pages of each team in the Our Research section to learn more about these projects and the outstanding laboratories working on them.