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LIMR investigator awarded Department of Defense Grant for studies on regenerating nerves and tissue lost from amputation

Lankenau Medical Center August 1, 2019 Research News

Ellen Heber-Katz, PhD, professor at Main Line Health’s Lankenau Institute for Medical Research (LIMR), and two of her colleagues, were awarded a three-year grant from the United States Department of Defense (DOD) to further their studies on a drug they developed that shows promise in regenerating nerves and tissue lost from amputation.

By 2050, approximately 3.6 million Americans will be living with the loss of a limb, most likely because of vascular disease and/or trauma. Dr. Heber-Katz made the surprising discovery in 1996 that a certain breed of laboratory mice can spontaneously regenerate lost tissue, similar to amphibians such as newts and salamanders. The mice don’t just heal, Dr. Heber-Katz discovered. Rather, their injured tissue spontaneously regenerates a perfect replica of lost tissue including hair follicles and cartilage, without scarring and with total replacement of normal tissue architecture and function.

Since that discovery, Dr. Heber-Katz and her colleagues followed various clues in their laboratory research and determined that a specific protein, HIF-1a, is the likely cause of the tissue regeneration. That led the team to create a drug that mimics the protein’s action.

“This new DOD grant will help us progress our scientific understanding of HIF-1a and enable us to work on advancing future treatments that could eventually regenerate entire limbs,” said Dr. Heber-Katz, an internationally renowned immunologist who investigates mammalian regeneration. “We are grateful for DOD’s support in this work, which may prove helpful for wounded warriors and others living with lost limbs.”

Dr. Heber-Katz’s colleagues on the grant, entitled “Drug-Induced Regeneration and Re-innervation in a Mouse Digit Amputation and Nerve Transection Model,” are Phillip Messersmith, PhD, of University of California, Berkeley; and Aviram Giladi, MD, of Curtis National Hand Center at MedStar Union Memorial Hospital, Baltimore.

For the research, DOD awarded LIMR $1.58 million, which will cover 88 percent of the project’s estimated cost. Non-governmental sources will fund $213,000, or 12 percent, of the project.

For more information about Lankenau Institute for Medial Research’s featured clinical research and faculty, visit limr.org.

About Main Line Health

Founded in 1985,Main Line Health is a not-for-profit health system serving portions of Philadelphia and its western suburbs. Main Line Health’s commitment—to deliver advanced medicine to treat and cure disease while also playing an important role in prevention and disease management as well as training physicians and other health care providers—reflects our intent to keep our community and ourselves well ahead. A team of more than 10,000 employees and 2,000 physicians care for patients throughout the Main Line Health system.

At Main Line Health’s core are four of the region’s most respected acute care hospitals—Lankenau Medical Center, Bryn Mawr Hospital, Paoli Hospital and Riddle Hospital—as well as one of the nation’s recognized facilities for rehabilitative medicine, Bryn Mawr Rehabilitation Hospital.

Main Line Health also includes Mirmont Treatment Center for drug and alcohol recovery; Main Line Health HomeCare & Hospice, which includes skilled home health care, hospice and home infusion services; Main Line Health Centers, primary and specialty care, lab and radiology, and other outpatient services located in Broomall, Collegeville, Concordville, Exton, King of Prussia and Newtown Square; Lankenau Institute for Medical Research, a biomedical research organization; and Main Line HealthCare,one of the region’s largest multispecialty physician networks.

Main Line Health is the recipient of numerous awards for quality care and service, including System Magnet® designation, the nation’s highest distinction for nursing excellence and the Mid-Atlantic Alliance for Performance Excellence (MAAPE) Excellence Award. Main Line Health is committed to creating an environment of diversity, respect and inclusion and has proudly embraced the American Hospital Association’s #123forEquity Pledge to Act to eliminate disparities in care. We are dedicated to advancing patient-centered care, education and research to help our community stay healthy.

About Lankenau Institute for Medical Research

Lankenau Institute for Medical Research (LIMR) is a nonprofit biomedical research institute located on the campus of Lankenau Medical Center and is part of Main Line Health. Founded in 1927, LIMR’s mission is to improve human health and well-being. Faculty and staff are devoted to advancing innovative new approaches to formidable medical challenges, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal disorders and autoimmune diseases, such as diabetes and arthritis. LIMR’s principal investigators conduct basic, preclinical and translational research, using their findings to explore ways to improve disease detection, diagnosis, treatment and prevention. They are committed to extending the boundaries of human health through technology transfer and training of the next generation of scientists and physicians.