McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine affiliated faculty member and Duquesne University Associate Professor of Pharmaceutics Jelena Janjic, PhD, is working with a multidisciplinary team of researchers to explore the use of nanomedicine in organ transplantation and regenerative surgery.
Dr. Janjic, who created the first inflammatory pain nanomedicine that directly targets the pain source, is working with researchers from Wake Forest University and inStem (the Institute for Stem Cell Science and Regenerative Medicine) to investigate how nanomedicine can improve patient outcomes for individuals whose devastating injuries are treated with vascularized composite allotransplantation (VCA).
“Nanomedicine has begun to revolutionize cancer treatment and holds tremendous potential in regenerative medicine and transplantation,” said Dr. Janjic, founder and co-director of Duquesne University’s Chronic Pain Research Consortium. “Unlike other treatments, nanomedicine offers an approach that personalizes treatment while reducing adverse effects that often arise with current transplantation supportive treatments.”
Thanks to a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), Dr. Janjic is working with McGowan Institute affiliated faculty member Vijay Gorantla, MD, PhD, a leading VCA expert from the Wake Forest School of Medicine, and Praveen Kumar Vemula, PhD, from inStem, which is part of India’s Department of Biotechnology, to develop novel diagnostic and treatment procedures for VCA patients.
A major challenge with transplantation is tissue rejection, which is complicated by the inability to deliver current anti-rejection drugs directly to the affected organ. The researchers use nanomedicine to target anti-rejection therapies predominantly to the transplanted tissue, which, if effective, could also reduce the medications’ side effects.
A second part of the team’s research identifies potential problems to transplantation by using nanoimaging to see the response of a patient’s immune system to transplantation.
“Nanomedicine can deliver low-dose medication to cells or graft tissues, while nanoimaging allows us to monitor donor and recipient cells in the patient’s immune system,” Dr. Janjic said. “This would allow us to personalize therapies while reducing the adverse effects seen with current treatments.”
Drs. Janjic and Gorantla have been partnering for the past few years to develop new therapies in pain and regenerative medicine. At the time they received the DoD grant, they were conducting collaborative research with the U.S. Air Force’s (USAF) largest medical research wing, the 59th Medical Wing (MDW). The unit works to identify and develop transformative therapies and products that can help the military both in the field and hospital settings.
Dr. Janjic is an Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education faculty fellow/principal scientist, and Dr. Gorantla serves as the chief scientific consultant in reconstructive transplantation for the 59th MDW. Dr. Janjic is the first Duquesne faculty fellow with the 59th MDW and has initiated multiple collaborative projects with USAF.
The DoD grant is titled “A Novel Graft Implanted Macrophage-Enzyme Responsive Immunosuppressive Therapy to Prevent Chronic Rejection in Vascularized Composite Allotransplantation.” The award number is W81XWH-19-1-0828. Drs. Gorantla, Janjic and Vemula share the partner grant, and Dr. Gorantla serves as the initiating principal investigator.