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SQI: Simpson Querry Institute

New material shows promise for regenerative medicine

A new study published in Nature Communications highlights groundbreaking materials research with the potential to transform therapies for patients with traumatic or degenerative conditions such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, arthritis, and spinal cord injuries. Samuel I. Stupp and post-doctoral researchers Ronit Freeman, Nicholas Stephanopoulos, and Zaida Alvarez-Pinto, developed the first synthetic material capable of dynamically signaling to cells to trigger desired behaviors, such as proliferation and differentiation. This new platform opens possibilities for directing stem cells in order to facilitate regeneration, and for understanding new ways to control cell fate and function.

While this process is currently only done in vitro with the vision of then transplanting cells, Stupp said in the future it might be possible to perform this process in vivo. The stem cells would be implanted in the clinic, encapsulated in the type of material described in the new work, via an injection and targeted to a particular spot. Then, soluble molecules designed to activate and direct the transplanted cells in particular ways would be given to the patient to trigger the desired processes.

People would love to have cell therapies that utilize stem cells derived from their own bodies to regenerate tissue," said Stupp, the director of the Simpson Querrey Institute for BioNanotechnology and Board of Trustees Professor at Northwestern University. "In principle, this will eventually be possible, but one needs procedures that are effective at expanding and differentiating cells in order to do so. Our technology does that."