Center for Regenerative Medicine

A $3 million, four-year gift from the Cullen Trust for Health Care is enabling Houston Methodist create the Center for Regenerative Medicine. This research initiative will help develop new ways of compelling damaged cells, tissues and organs to heal themselves. Patients with cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis, diabetes and spinal cord injuries are among those poised to benefit from advances in regenerative medical technologies.

"We are excited the Cullen Trust for Health Care has decided to invest in the growth of regenerative medicine at Methodist," said the program's first director, Ennio Tasciotti, PhD . "Imagine a world where most victims of spinal cord injuries will walk again or where weakened hearts can be made to grow stronger. Gifts like this one will help us advance the science to make that world our reality."

As envisioned by Tasciotti, the Center for Regenerative Medicine will emphasize three areas of research: biomimetic scaffolds and nanomaterials, programmable drug delivery systems, and stem cell and immune system plasticity. The funds will be used to hire researchers and purchase equipment and reagents.

Tasciotti is also co-chair of the Department of Nanomedicine and is the scientific director of the Surgical Advanced Technology Lab. From 2008 to 2013, a team led by Tasciotti, Houston Methodist Research Institute President & CEO Mauro Ferrari, PhD and Houston Methodist Chief of Spinal Surgery Bradley Weiner, MD worked under a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) grant to develop a putty that could help repair fractures in long skeletal bones. The ultimate goal of this ongoing research is to develop materials that improve and speed the repair of load-bearing bones, particularly those stressed by tissue weight.

Regenerative medicine also includes therapies that help heal soft tissues, such as the endothelial cells of blood vessels or the cardiomyocytes of the heart. Research Institute President and CEO Ferrari has said regenerative medicine is one of three focus areas for Houston Methodist science.

"The field of regenerative medicine is both very young and very vibrant, and its impact could be enormous," Tasciotti said. "It is reasonable to envision regenerative medicine eventually touching every aspect of conventional clinical practice, from fetal medicine to geriatrics."