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Regenerative Medicine Could Soon Transform Treatment of Musculoskeletal Conditions


Michael Davies, MD, a member of the Feeley-Liu Lab for Muscle Regeneration in the UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, performs lab experiments at the Mission Bay Campus in San Francisco. (Photo courtesy of the UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery)

UCSF’s Brian Feeley, MD, and Xuhui Liu, MD, in collaboration with Kevin Healy, PhD, received a $1.2 million grant for their lab from the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine to continue pursuing their translational research in regenerative medicine.

“This grant will allow us to continue to look at how muscle stem cells from within our own bodies can be used to improve outcomes of musculoskeletal conditions such as rotator cuff tears, low back pain and muscle injury,” said Feeley, orthopaedic surgeon and chief of the UCSF Division of Sports Medicine and Shoulder Surgery. “The goal of this project is to advance our basic science data into the clinics quickly.”


Dr. Brian Feeley and Dr. Xuhui Liu's lab performs research on muscle tissue quality and its impact on common problems, including rotator cuff tears, knee pain, limb immobilization, joint contractures, and low back pain. (Photo courtesy of the UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery)

Activating muscle stem cells to improve patient outcomes

The grant, entitled Matrix Assisted Cell Transplantation of Promyogenic Fibroadipogenic Progenitor (FAP) Stem Cells, seeks to determine how muscle stem cells can be activated and then transplanted into patients with chronic muscle conditions such as rotator cuff or spine degeneration. The UCSF team is working on a cell-based hydrogel therapy designed to improve muscle through sustained release of cell-based cytokines. To support this research, the CIRM grant will provide the funding over the next two years.

“Some muscle stem cells are capable of stimulating other cells around them to regenerate tissue,” said Liu. “For this project, we are going to evaluate the ability of certain muscle stem cells to be grown and implanted into a scaffold to help degenerated muscle recover, similar to what we can do with cartilage implantation in the knee.”

Patient treatments “in the very near future”

“Collaborations are key to this type of work, and we are fortunate to be able to work with Dr. Kevin Healy,” Feeley added. Healy is the Jan Fandrianto Distinguished Professor in Engineering at the University of California at Berkeley in the Departments of Bioengineering and Materials Science and Engineering. He brings his expertise in the use of highly specialized scaffolds to hold cells for durable implantation of stem cells.

“This grant allows us to take a big step forward. We want to take what we have learned about how these muscle stem cells work and use that to effectively deploy them into muscle and promote regeneration across different injury and degenerative conditions in patients in the very near future,” Feeley said.


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Phone: (415) 353-2808 | Fax: (415) 885-3862

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