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Biologics Feature

Nanotechnology May Lead to Tissue Regeneration

Biloine W. Young • Wed, December 13th, 2017

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A body having the capacity to regenerate its own parts, once the realm of medical science fiction, is now within reach, according to Samuel Stupp, Ph.D., director of Northwestern University’s Louis A. Simpson and Kimberly K. Querrey Institute for BioNanotechnology.

According to a writer for Northwestern Medicine Now, Stupp has pioneered one of the advances in researching how organic structures at the nanometer scale (the width of a human hair if it were split 80,000 times) can be absorbed into the body without rejection.

“Stem cells are normally regarded as the therapy for regenerative medicine,” Stupp says. But the problem with stem cells is “it’s nearly impossible to ensure stem cells get to the right place,” he explains. “Stem cells also have a hard time adapting to new environments—even if they knew where to go, approximately 90 percent don’t survive the trip.”

“What we’re doing is jumpstarting biological regeneration using synthetic nanomaterials,” Stupp says. “Molecule by molecule, this is bottom-up design using nanotechnology concepts.”

This is where Stupp’s research comes in: He is manufacturing self-assembling natural matrices that mimic those that normally surround cells to protect and direct them to a specific location in the body. Since these matrices are made of organic materials they can biodegrade without leaving unnecessary—and potentially harmful—foreign objects in the body.

Stupp is presently working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for approval to launch a clinical trial for spinal regeneration in humans. If approved, Stupp and his staff may soon be growing new bone between the vertebrae in the backs of patients.

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