Dr. Stephen Feinberg is leading a team that is currently working with five patients to treat small mouth wounds with the grafts. These five patients are part of what is called a proof of concept study for the Food and Drug Administration.
Feinberg, a professor of both dentistry and surgery, is collaborating with Kenji Izumi, a scientist and surgeon who already has seen success with the method in about 80 patients in Japan. Izumi is a visiting assistant research scientist at U-M and a long-time colleague of Feinberg's.
Many types of people have trouble with mouth wounds that do not heal well on their own---patients going through cancer chemotherapy, for example, or people with diabetes. Those who have been involved in accidents are candidates, as well.
Existing treatments include taking a skin graft from a site such as a leg and stitching it into the mouth. Skin works for covering the wound, but is not as pliable as the mucosal lining of the mouth, and if it is too thick, it might even grow hair inside the mouth. A large skin graft also leaves the patient in pain with lengthy healing time.
Feinberg said tissue engineering has many advantages, including a smaller donor site that heals faster and a graft that is mucosal cells, more like the mouth lining, not skin. After a short healing period, the patient feels mouth lining as it is supposed to feel.
In their research, Feinberg and Izumi took thin pieces of mucosa from the roof of the patients' mouths, about as big around as the end of a pencil eraser. They worked with Cynthia Marcelo, a research professor of surgery with nearly a decade of expertise in cell growth, to use a system she develop
Contact: Colleen Newvine
University of Michigan