Alumnus helping lead Navy’s regenerative medicine efforts

July 22, 2014
By Chris Saunders

NC State magazine profiled the university’s efforts in regenerative medicine in the summer issue, which should be in mailboxes soon.

But it turns out there’s a Wolfpacker also stressing regenerative efforts at the Naval Medical Research Center that could become standard practice across the globe.

The center, located in Silver Spring, Md., focuses on solving battlefield medical problems, studying infectious diseases, and understanding health problems associated with non-conventional weapons.

Capt. John W. Sanders III

Capt. John W. Sanders III

And Capt. John W. Sanders III, who graduated from NC State in 1987 and is the center’s commanding officer, believes investments in regenerative medicine research will help to develop better ways to help tissue heal after traumatic blast injuries.

“This is a level of trauma that historically people did not survive,” says Sanders, who adds that today’s resusciative techniques help produce a 98 percent chance of surviving for those who suffer the injuries.

The Naval Medical Research Center is working to develop tests that can help doctors judge how well a particular wound is likely to heal and which strategies would be best to promote healing, such as adding anti-inflammatory therapies or transplanted cells. When soldiers are evacuated from Afghanistan or Iraq, any tissue removed from blast wounds is collected and analyzed in detail—the cell types and body chemicals that are present and in what amounts. The resulting database will help researchers discover which chemicals or cells are most important in healing these devastating wounds.

The center also works to improve prosthetic limbs, in collaboration with regenerative medicine pioneer Anthony Atala, director of the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, where researchers are developing ways to prepare prosthetics so human skin will bond to better and prevent infection.

Sanders, whose expertise is in tropical medicine, says that NC State’s new investments in regenerative medicine are wise.

“Regenerative medicine is part of the evolution of our medical care, both for soldiers and sailors injured in battle and for civilians who may suffer a blast injury,” he says. “Like so many other examples of military technique, we expect techniques developed to take care of combat injuries will ultimately end up being used in other areas of medical care, from cancer to reproduction.”

–Angela Spivey

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