Research Areas

Targeting of Endogenous Stem Cells for Segmental Bone Fracture Repair

Bone tissue, which provides major structural and supportive connective tissue to the body, can be lost due to cancer or trauma. When the edges of a fracture are close to each other, bone repair cells are capable of healing the injury. However, when a large piece of bone is missing, these cells cannot bridge the necessary gap for healing, resulting in the need for bone grafting — the current gold-standard therapy.

Bone grafting can be complicated, as bone cells are not always available and their harvest, usually from the pelvic bone, can lead to prolonged pain. The Gazit Laboratory is developing a novel approach for the treatment of bone fractures without the need for bone grafting. Stem cells are recruited to the fracture site using a collagen matrix and then a bone-forming gene is directly delivered to the stem cells using an ultrasound pulse. This proposed therapy has the potential to generate rapid healing of segmental bone fractures and significantly decrease patient hospitalization, loss of working days and significant healthcare costs. In addition, this therapeutic intervention can be repeated several times when needed in order to deal with severe cases of bone loss. The research is supported by a grant from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (#TR406713).

Noninvasive Method for Diagnosing Low Back Pain

More than 85 percent of the United States population suffers from low back pain, much of which is caused by intervertebral disc degeneration. Disc degeneration is a progressive condition, resulting in chronic pain in the back and neck. For some patients, degeneration can occur for years before pain sets in, presenting symptoms, while others are affected almost immediately. Currently, identifying the exact disc that is the source of pain involves painful and invasive diagnostic procedures, in which physicians inject a contrast agent or non-toxic dye into patients’ spinal discs.

Together with the Li Laboratory, our Gazit Laboratory has developed an imaging technique using magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, which can identify specific biomarkers to potentially provide a noninvasive diagnostic approach to low back pain. This technology, which has been tested on patients and in the laboratory, enabled us to precisely pinpoint the origin of pain. In addition, our research team is interested in the role of stem cells in disc disease and how we can utilize these cells to regenerate the disc and turn it back into a functional tissue. Using this novel imaging technique, we hope to be able to evaluate the effect of our stem cell therapies on back pain, in the future. This project is supported by an NIH grant # 1R01AR066517-01.

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