- US military is working on cell reprogramming to heal wounds faster
- The process entails changing cells into different ones like muscle into skin
- This would allow wounds to heal five times faster than the human body
- For example, if a solider’s muscle is expose the cells could become skin cells
- This would allow the wound to quickly heal without the need of surgery
It may sound like a super power of the comic book character Wolverine, but the US Air Force is developing a way for future warfighters to heal their wounds in an instance.
Working with the University of Michigan, the teams is exploring cellular reprogramming to treat wounds, burns and other injuries on the battle five times faster than what occurs naturally with the human body.
The process of cell programming modifies its genome using proteins, called transcription factors, which stop different genes ‘to regulate activities such as cell division and growth, and cell migration and organization.’
The transcription factors could be administered through a ‘spray-on’ bandage where they would be applied directly to wounds, which could convert exposed muscle cells into surface skin cells that cover the wound so it heals faster.
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The US Air Force and the University of Michigan are exploring cellular reprogramming to treat wounds, burns and other injuries on the battle five times faster than what occurs naturally with the human body
Dr. Indika Rajapakse, associate professor of computational medicine and bioinformatics, and of mathematics, at the University of Michigan, is using a live cell imaging microscope for the project.
The technology will allow researchers to see high-resolution views inside live cells to better understand the wound-healing process.
There are amazing opportunities in the United States, that you don’t see in the rest of the world, to humanize science and meet critical needs in medicine,’ Rajapakse said in the release.
‘We have the resources to do this, and it is our obligation to take full advantage of them.’
For example, if a soldier is injured where their muscle is showing, the cells can be reprogrammed into skin cells to quickly cover the wound
After modifying the gene, the sequence can be written so it turns into a different type of cell when necessary.
For example, if a soldier is injured where their muscle is showing, the cells can be reprogrammed into skin cells to quickly cover the wound.
The envisioned technology would act like a ‘spray-on’ bandage, applying transcription factors directly to wounds,’ the release states.
‘This method would convert exposed deep muscle cells into surface skin cells, which would mean a higher probability of successful healing than the current methods of skin grafting.’
The technology sounds similar to the powers of the comic book character Wolverine
Rajapakse and his team have developed a data-guided algorithm to mathematically identify the correct transcription factors and predict the points in the cell cycle where transcription factors can best affect the desired change.
The live cell imaging microscope provides data to further improve the algorithm.
Dr. Frederick Leve, program officer for AFOSR’s Dynamical Systems and Control Theory portfolio, said: ‘It’s rare that mathematics provides such promising results so quickly.’
‘It usually takes decades for basic math research to make it into models which can be applied to a technology. ‘
However, in Dr. Rajapakse’s case, it only took a handful of years.