Bingkun K. Chen, M.D., Ph.D., is focused on spinal cord injury and regeneration. Dr. Chen developed and optimized two axonal tracing techniques, bidirectional axonal tracing with DiI and DiO, and retrograde axonal tracing with Fast Blue. By using tissue-engineered technology with biodegradable polymer scaffolds loaded with growth-promoting cells (Schwann cells) to bridge the transection, the long-term goal is to shift the balance in the injured spinal cord toward healing and functional recovery in patients.
Dr. Chen's research team is focused on systematical manipulation of the microenvironment in the injured spinal cord using engineering techniques to modify the local environment for axonal regeneration by altering:
- Microarchitecture of biodegradable polymer scaffolds
- Cellular environment for cells supporting central nervous system axon growth (neural stem cells and Schwann cells)
- Molecular environment, including neurotrophic factors such as glial cell-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF), brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), neurotrophin-3 (NT3), and the like, and anti-scarring agents (rapamycin) incorporated into biodegradable polymers
Significance to patient care
Upon completion of a preclinical, large animal study for spinal cord repair, Dr. Chen plans for a clinical trial and eventual clinical application of his team's scaffold approach for patients with spinal cord injuries.