Imagine relying on physical and respiratory therapies, pacemakers and sometimes surgery to maintain even an average quality of life.
Patients with Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy, a genetic disease that causes the loss of control of skeletal muscles, face this every day. But the University’s medical and dental schools recently received a $3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to train students in regenerative science, an area that could provide new treatments and possibly cures to patients with Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy and other musculoskeletal diseases.
The grant will be used to create an interdisciplinary program to train doctoral students, postdoctoral fellows and clinical fellows in regenerative science. This type of science focuses on developing cell and tissue engineering therapies to repair damaged tissues or replace dysfunctional organs.
The research benefits people with a number of diseases, including people with degenerative muscle diseases, significant bone loss and people with arthritis who have loss of cartilage in their joints.
The program will focus on regenerating musculoskeletal tissues for the first five years, and then it will be expanded to include other types of tissues if the NIH grant is renewed.
“It may include stem cell research related to regenerating and repairing certain functions, the use and development of substitutions for bone and muscle structures, and factors that relate to delivering proteins or genes to regenerate repair tissues,” said Steven Goldstein, head of the program.
Goldstein says the program’s purpose is to provide support to students to make them more capable for progressing in the field of regenerative science. “We’re going to give them all a curriculum and exposure by mixing clinicians, biologists and engineers together. It’s a new way to train people in an interdisciplinary fashion, and they will each bring their expertise to it,” Goldstein said. “Lots of groups approach it, and rarely do any of them get enough exposure to other disciplines to make any progress. You need core understanding.”
The five-year grant is part of the Roadmap for Medical Research, a program developed by the NIH to address “critical roadblocks and knowledge gaps that currently constrain rapid progress in biomedical research,” according NIH’s website. The idea to create a regenerative tissue training program was developed by University faculty and submitted to NIH, which approved the measure. This particular program is unique because it brings people from different scientific fields together to speed the research process.
Most of the money will support the training of students, but a small amount will help faculty develop new courses within the curriculum.
Every year 12 students will be enrolled in the program. A trainee review committee made up of University faculty will select the students. Candidates for the program must have an interest and career goal in working in regenerative science, have outstanding scholastic achievement and be sponsored by two faculty mentors with complimentary areas of interest. Personal statements submitted by the candidates expressing their personal motivation are also considered.