Developing the treatments of tomorrow in the lab today
In our NIH funded laboratory, we are pioneering 2 major scientific fields: (i) Interventional Regenerative Medicine (IRM) - Restoring cellular health and function of injured tissues through the local delivery of regenerative and stem cell therapies and (ii) Interventional Oncology (IO) - Treating solid tumors through the local delivery of drug, cellular and thermal/ablative therapies. In the field of IRM, we specifically work on the differences in organ regeneration between children and adults. Furthermore, as children have much higher bioenergetic requirements, we are focusing on novel therapies to address this specific need.
Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSCs: cell therapy) and their derived Extracellular Vesicles (MSC-EVs: cell-free therapy) offer a promising regenerative therapy for a wide range of diseases given their pro-angiogenic, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, anti-fibrotic and bioenergetic properties. Our research focuses on characterizing the phenotype of these therapies, at the genomic, proteomic, and lipidomic levels, as well as enhancing their regenerative phenotype using genetic modification and novel priming technologies.
Diabetes is characterized by the inability to regulate blood glucose levels. Early in the disease process, our research focuses on regenerating the native pancreas, protecting islets and modulating the immune system through the local delivery of MSCs and MSC-EVs, while later in the disease process, our research focuses on optimizing islet transplantation which can replenish insulin-producing beta-cells.
Acute Kidney Injury (AKI) occurs in a significant number of hospitalized patients, especially in those receiving chemotherapy or undergoing cardiovascular procedures. While many patients recover, the kidneys are often left with residual damage which predisposes them to develop kidney dysfunction or chronic kidney disease in later life. Our research focuses on stimulating a regenerative phenotype in the injured kidney as well as healing the kidney through locoregional delivery of MSC-based therapies.
Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is a neurodegenerative disease and the leading cause of age-associated dementia. Although the mechanism underlying the pathogenesis of AD still remains elusive, a large body of evidence suggests that damaged mitochondria play a fundamental role in both neurons and microglia in the hippocampus. Our research focuses on delivering MSC therapies with a high bioenergetic cargo directly into the blood supply of the brain as well as modulating the blood-brain barrier through soundwave modulation.
Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) is defined by the acute onset of non-cardiogenic pulmonary edema, hypoxia and the need for mechanical ventilation. In the current pandemic, ARDS is a major complication of coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) and is associated with significant long-term morbidity and mortality. Our research focuses on how MSCs and MSC-EVs can regenerate the damaged lung, restore the epithelial-endothelial barrier and restore the bioenergetic health of injured cells.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) encompasses two distinct diseases: Crohn’s disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC). Mucosal healing is the preferred treatment target, as patients who achieve mucosal healing have improved outcomes, including decreased risk of surgery, and lower relapse rates. However, almost all therapies are given either orally or intravenously resulting in their systemic distribution. Our research focuses on delivering conventional and novel stem cell-based therapies directly into the bowel circulation, using locoregional techniques, to ensure maximal therapeutic efficiency.
Pancreatic Cancer is a lethal malignancy with a very poor survival rate. Systemic intravenous chemotherapy administration is the first-line treatment for patients with unresectable pancreatic cancer; however, its responses are limited given issues related to limited drug concentration reaching the tumor, systemic toxicity and poor tumor penetrance. Our research aims to improve chemotherapy efficacy using locoregional delivery directly into pancreatic tumors, via its arterial blood supply, as well as modulating the stomal barrier around tumors.