Research Projects

The Tissue Engineering and Sarcoma Biology Laboratory is engaged in two main research projects:

  • Cellular and molecular studies on musculoskeletal cancers
  • A biodegradable implant to repair damaged peripheral nerves

Cellular and molecular studies on musculoskeletal cancers

Dr. Maran directs the cellular and molecular biology research projects within our lab. Current studies focus on various regulatory mechanisms (autophagy, apoptosis and transcription) that control osteosarcoma tumor progression and metastasis.

We're investigating the functions of interferons and Wnt pathways in normal cells and cancer cells of bone. The approach includes systems biology strategies to define gene expression and signaling pathways. The studies involve in vitro and in vivo model systems and several cutting-edge approaches, including genomics and proteomics analyses, high-resolution imaging and microscopy analyses, and targeted drug delivery.

Biodegradable implant to repair damaged peripheral nerves

Dr. Yaszemski and Mayo Clinic collaborator Anthony J. Windebank, M.D., are conducting an early feasibility clinical trial of the Mayo Clinic Nerve Scaffold (MCNS1), a single-use, biodegradable implant designed to repair damaged peripheral nerves.

The Mayo Clinic Nerve Scaffold is a hollow nerve tube made of polycaprolactone fumarate (PCLF) that's used to bridge critical-sized peripheral nerve defects and promote the growth of regenerating axons.

For nerve injuries where the nerve is severed or destroyed, treatment is limited. Depending on the type and severity of nerve injuries, treatments include:

  • Neurolysis
  • Direct coaptation
  • Nerve graft
  • Nerve transfer

Repair of motor nerves is only sporadically reported in published research, thus effectiveness in repairing larger nerve defects or motor nerves is inadequate. There's an urgent need for new synthetic nerve scaffolds to support regeneration across larger nerve gaps.

With approval from the Food and Drug Administration, our clinical trial is studying the safety of PCLF in a well-defined clinical model using the early feasibility study process. Whole sural nerve biopsies are carried out in patients with suspected peripheral neuropathy to establish definitive diagnoses that may have treatment implications. Whole sural nerve biopsy results in predictable loss of function in the sural distribution of the foot. Reconstruction of the sural nerve in these patients can potentially restore sensation and prevent complications associated with the biopsy. Direct nerve repair (coaptation) can't be performed.