UCI among recipients of $3.9 million grant advancing wound healing research

Irvine, Calif., May 30, 2006 -- UC Irvine will take part in a multi-institutional program to better understand how deep wounds can be healed following traumatic injury -- research that also could lead to significant advances in the field of limb regeneration. The program will be financed by a one-year, $3.9 million grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the research and development arm of the Department of Defense.

The research team, headed by Ken Muneoka, professor of cell and molecular biology at Tulane University and a former UCI graduate student and researcher, is one of only two groups in the country to receive the DARPA grant aimed at tissue regeneration. UCI researchers involved in the project are Susan Bryant, dean of biological sciences; David Gardiner, research biologist in the development and cell biology department; Elizabeth Rugg, associate researcher of dermatology; and Douglas Wallace, Donald Bren Professor of Biological Sciences and Molecular Medicine. The group will begin their work this week with a meeting in Colorado.

The immediate goal of the DARPA grant is to find ways in which the body's natural healing process can be harnessed to heal deep wounds that involve bone, muscle, nerves and other soft tissues. To achieve this, the research group involving UCI will use the salamander and the mouse as models of how these two species deal differently with a severe wound injury such as the loss of a limb. Salamanders are the only adult vertebrate that can make a blastema, a mass of undifferentiated cells that have the ability to grow and recreate a limb.

The researchers will focus on recreating that regeneration process in a mouse model by making a blastema for the regeneration of a mouse finger. UCI's contribution to the project will include discovering how the process works in salamanders, looking at how to create a surface layer, or epidermis, to cover the blastema -- a crucial step for proper functioning --

Contact: Farnaz Khadem
University of California - Irvine

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