There is perhaps no field more relevant to the future of medical care than regenerative medicine. With the potential to heal or replace tissues and organs damaged by age, disease, or trauma, regenerative medicine stands to bypass obstacles posed by current transplant therapy, which suffers from limited donor supply and often severe immune complications.
The Memphis Institute for Regenerative Medicine (MIRM) was created in 2017 with the aim of translating scientific discovery into organ repair and replacement therapies. MIRM was the vision of Vice Chancellor for Research, Dr. Steve Goodman, and Dr. James Kang, who was recruited to UTHSC to become its Executive Director. Over three years, it has established a network of 68 leading researchers who perform basic, clinical, and translational research in the areas of stem cell biology, 3D bio-printing, and tissue engineering. MIRM has brought together the expertise of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), the University of Memphis (UofM), St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and a variety of industry partners that include Medtronic, FedEx and Revotek, USA (a world leader in the production of 3D bio-printed blood vessels). Dr. Gabor Tigyi has been appointed the Deputy Director of MIRM, overseeing daily operations.
MIRM has already become a vital part of the Memphis life sciences research community in its three years of existence. Four groups of collaborative teams have put forth the following innovative projects:
- Project One: Novel 3D Bio-fabrication Methodologies and Manufacturing for Enhanced Tissue Regeneration and Implantable Devices. This group aims to integrate state-of-the-art metallic, polymeric, and hybrid additive manufacturing technologies with multi-disciplinary expertise that can contribute to establishing novel 3D bio-fabrication methodologies to create successful tissue generative platforms and devices.
- Project Two: 3D Bio-printed Blood Vessels – Basic and Translational Approaches. This project is focused on techniques developed by Revotek for 3D bio-printing of blood. With FDA approval pending for the first human trial of stem cell derived bio-printed blood vessels in Memphis, this group is working to develop animal models for understanding the underlying mechanisms to improve the clinical application of this technology.
- Project Three: Engineering of Vascularized Bone/Cartilage Graft. The long-range goal of this group is to reestablish the functional integrity of joints affected by osteoarthritis, including the osteochondral interface, using adipose-derived stem cells from subcutaneous fat tissues.
- Project Four: Gene Editing of Hematopoietic and Cancer Stem-like Cells. This project’s objective is to develop improved, clinically applicable, gene editing technologies in preclinical models, for the targeted delivery of the gene editing molecular machinery and small molecules into different types of stem cells using unique nanotechnology platforms.
These four projects were begun with $800,000 provided by UTHSC. MIRM has received $2.5 million in support from its industry partners: Medtronic, Revotek USA and FedEx. With this industry match in place, MIRM has requested $2.5 million from the State of Tennessee to support the further development of this powerful research Institute.
The impact of MIRM’s projects are far-reaching, extending beyond the potential for substantial new federal and non-federal research grants. Revotek USA’s 3D bio-printed materials will be produced in the Plough Center at UTHSC. Once FDA approval is gained for clinical trials to begin, these will be conducted via the Clinical Trials Network of Tennessee (CTN2), associated with hospitals statewide. Thus, MIRM’s success holds the promise of establishing Memphis as an epicenter for regenerative medicine, increasing collaborative research, attracting talent, driving jobs, and drawing investment.