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Regenerative Medicine Research in the RCCC

Regenerative medicine is a new way of treating injuries and diseases.  It's goal is to recreate both the shape and function of lost or damaged tissues and organs. The Rutgers-Cleveland Clinic Consortium uses three basic strategies to achieve this goal: 1) transplantation of donor tissues from others, 2) biological approaches using stem cells, and 3) biomedical engineering approaches.

Transplantation replaces damaged tissues or organs with donor tissues.  But, it  comes with the burden of lifelong treatments to suppress the immune system so that it does not reject the donor tissue. New breakthrough treatments in the biology of the immune system will enable recipients to tolerate donor transplants. These new treatments can eliminate tissue or organ rejection without suppressing the immune system.  RCCC is focusing on making the transplant recipient’s immune system more tolerant of donor tissue.  This may be available to help warfighters who have suffered traumatic limb and tissue loss.

Biological approaches using stem cells
Biological approaches use cells to help regenerate damaged organs or tissues. When injected in organs or tissues, cells can produce building blocks for tissue repair and chemical promoters of the repair process.  Stem cells offer the added advantage of being able to change as they develop.  At the very least, cell-based therapies can help normal regenerative processes in tissue, reduce tightening around scar tissue, and provide a pool of responding cells that may act on specific types of injuries.  Many cell therapies using cells from the patient are currently in clinical use and testing.  The best cell source is probably from the patient's own tissues, because these cells are easy to harvest and readily available.  In contrast, using cells transplanted from others has many risks and may have only a temporary benefit.  RCCC believes that within the next five years, we can see significant advances in the clinical effectiveness of injecting a patient’s own stem cells -- particularly stem cells from fatty tissue and bone marrow.

Biomedical engineering approaches
Tissue engineering is a research area that combines cell biology, engineering, and biochemistry to help replace, repair, or regrow injured or diseased tissues. The ultimate goal of tissue engineering is to grow or reconstruct parts of the body such as limbs 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. More than a dozen projects described on this website detail our current research and development of methods of reconstructing major gaps in bone, nerve, muscle and tendon tissues.  These severe defects in limbs and face often result from blast injuries, which can leave a wounded warrior with limited function and independence. 

The overall RCCC research program involves 25 distinct teams developing solutions that will reach the wounded warrior within five years or less.  Visit the individual pages in the Our Planned Therapies section to learn more about the projects and the outstanding laboratories working on them.