Duquesne University Researcher Helps Lead Nanomedicine Effort in Transplantation
Duquesne University Professor Dr. Jelena Janjic is working with a multidisciplinary team of researchers to explore the use of nanomedicine in organ transplantation and regenerative surgery.
Janjic, who created the first inflammatory pain nanomedicine that directly targets the pain source, is working with researchers from Wake Forest University and inStem to investigate how nanomedicine can improve patient outcomes for individuals whose devastating injuries are treated with vascularized composite allotransplantation (VCA).
"Nanomedicine has begun to revolutionize cancer treatment and holds tremendous potential in regenerative medicine and transplantation," said Janjic, associate pharmacy professor and founder and co-director of the University's Chronic Pain Research Consortium. "Unlike other treatments, nanomedicine offers an approach that personalizes treatment while reducing adverse effects that often arise with current transplantation supportive treatments."
Thanks to a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), Janjic is working with Dr. Vijay Gorantla, a leading VCA expert, from the Wake Forest School of Medicine, and Dr. Praveen Kumar Vemula from inStem, which is part of India's Department of Biotechnology, to develop novel diagnostic and treatment procedures for VCA patients.
A major challenge with transplantation is tissue rejection, as current anti-rejection drugs can't be delivered directly to the affected organ. The researchers are using nanomedicine to target anti-rejection therapies predominantly to the tissue, which, if effective, could also reduce side effects of such drugs that leave patients feeling weak.
A second part of the team's research is to use nanoimaging to see how a patient's immune system would respond to transplantation, which would help to diagnose potential problems.
"Nanomedicine can deliver low dose medication to cells or graft tissues, while nanoimaging allows us to monitor donor and recipient cells in the patient's immune system," Janjic said. "This would allow us to personalize therapies while reducing the adverse effects seen with current treatments."
Janjic and Gorantla have been partnering for the past few years to develop new therapies in pain and regenerative medicine. At the time they received the DoD grant, they were conducting collaborative research with the U.S. Air Force's (USAF) largest medical research wing, the 59th Medical Wing (MDW). The unit works to identify and develop transformative therapies and products that can help the military both in the field and hospital settings.
Janjic is an Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education faculty fellow/principal scientist and Gorantla serves as the chief scientific consultant in reconstructive transplantation for the 59th MDW. Janjic is the first Duquesne faculty fellow with the 59th MDW, and has initiated multiple collaborative projects with USAF.
The DoD grant is titled A Novel Graft Implanted Macrophage-Enzyme Responsive Immunosuppressive Therapy to Prevent Chronic Rejection in Vascularized Composite Allotransplantation. The award number is W81XWH-19-1-0828. Gorantla, Janjic and Vemula share the partner grant, and Gorantla serves as the initiating principal investigator.
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