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Young Hye Song, PhD

Faculty Starter Grant in Drug Delivery, 2021 University of Arkansas

Stem Cell Delivery in Tissue Matrix Carrier for Spinal Cord Injury Repair


Spinal cord injury (SCI) is a traumatic injury that results in a permanent loss of sensory and motor function of the affected people. This permanent loss of sensory and motor functions comes from the fact that spinal cord tissues create holes, which are eventually filled with scars that do not heal damaged neurons. Effective treatment options for SCI are lacking because of the complex landscape of the scar tissues formed after spinal cord injury. As such, new drug delivery strategies are needed for effective treatment to restore damaged tissues and promote functional recovery. To this end, we aim to develop a new drug delivery system for SCI repair using stem cells and polymeric carriers. Stem cells are essentially living drug depots particularly attractive for SCI repair, as they secrete various kinds of proteins that promote tissue repair and functional recovery. Currently, one of the main challenges in delivering stem cells to the sites of injured spinal cords is the low survival rate of these cells because of the inhospitable lesion environment. General practice of stem cell therapy involves delivering stem cells in saline solutions, which do not provide any protective barriers to these stem cells entering the injury sites. Our polymeric carriers will not only prolong stem cell survival and secretion of good proteins, but also provide healthy spinal cord tissue components from the carriers themselves. The ongoing research in my lab funded by PhRMA Foundation has led to optimization of polymeric carrier formulations and characterization of stem cell behavior in our carriers. Successful completion of the work will allow us to develop new treatment options for SCI that can increase clinical potential of stem cell therapy after SCI.

I am honored and grateful for support from the PhRMA Foundation of my lab through the Research Starter Grant in Drug Delivery. This award has allowed my lab to initiate an exciting new line of research on developing combinatorial drug delivery platforms for spinal cord injury repair. I am excited at the prospect of making real contributions to improving health care through a clinically translatable therapeutic system.

Young Hye Song

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