The Regenerative Medicine Laboratory at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University focuses on the study of stem cells and extracellular vesicles and their ability to help treat, detect, and manage currently incurable diseases. These diseases include chronic heart diseases, cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, and auto-immune diseases. Stem cells exhibit mechanisms that protect cells and tissues from injury, and enhance repair and regeneration potentially contributing to a novel paradigm of disease treatment. Extracellular vesicles are cell signaling packages produces by stem cells or diseased cells that may contain valuable information pertaining to these chronic diseases or contain stem cells’ “fountain of youth” for the treatment of diseases. Our mission is to discover new clinical applications and technologies that exploit the properties of stem cells and extracellular vesicles for maximum therapeutic and diagnostic benefits.
While many details of the molecular mechanisms by which stem cells exert therapeutic benefits in animal models and humans are unknown, the major actions are thought to include (1) engraftment and provision of healthy cells to damaged tissues, (2) release of chemical and cellular signals such as extracellular vesicles that activate or protect resident cells without engraftment, (3) transfer of mitochondria to damaged cells, and/or (4) re-tuning of innate immune cells (e.g. macrophages). Mounting evidence supports an important role for paracrine signaling from stem cells. Paracrine signals are communicated by stem cells through soluble mediators (e.g., growth factors) or extracellular vesicles ranging 40-1000 nm, the latter of which contain biologically active cargo including proteins, mRNA, and miRNA, as well as DNA. The cargo within extracellular vesicles can transmit functional biological signals unabatedly over long distances. The relative contribution of soluble vs. extracellular vesicle-associated mediators to paracrine signaling is debated, and is a major question our laboratory is investigating through in vitro and in vivo animal models. Understanding these mechanisms is crucial to developing the next generation of stem cell-based therapies.
Our long-term goal is to develop effective cell-based or extracellular vesicular-based therapies for diseases affecting our veterinary patients and at the same time, improve our understanding of these veterinary diseases that mirror human diseases. Two major obstacles to the advancement of stem cells in this regard include (1) a clear understanding of the mechanisms by which stem cells produce benefits, e.g., paracrine mechanisms and (2) evaluation of stem cells in realistic animal models before proceeding to human trials. Patients seen by veterinarians and physicians both experience similar problems, with respect to disease pathology, clinical symptoms, time-course, and patient management. Therefore, spontaneous disease models in veterinary patients (dogs, cats, horses, sheep, goats) are particularly useful to test the safety and biological activity of stem cells or extracellular vesicles prior to their consideration for human trials. As a regenerative medicine laboratory affiliated with the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts, we are immersed in a rich scholarly and service-oriented environment which fosters novel evidenced-based approaches to medicine in our patients. Our affiliated faculty and trainees are focused on developing novel cell-based and extracellular vesicular-based therapeutics to address disease processes in our veterinary patients, and relating these findings to human health.
We are proudly supported by the following organizations and institutions.
Director: Vicky Yang (Vicky.firstname.lastname@example.org)
Research Assistant: Dawn Meola (email@example.com)
Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University
200 Westboro Road, Building 21
North Grafton, MA 01536