The New York State Department of Health recently awarded an NYU dental research team a three-year, $1 million grant to study the potential use of stem cells to regenerate facial muscles to enable people with traumatic injuries to speak, eat, and smile normally again.
The team, led by Dr. Louis Terracio, Associate Dean for Research, plans to extract a small number of stem cells from the facial muscle of a pig, grow the cells into facial muscle on a tissue scaffold to develop a prosthesis, and transplant the prosthesis onto the pig's face to repair damaged muscle.
In an earlier study, Dr. Terracio and his team performed a similar stem cell transplant into a rat to correct a defect in an abdominal muscle. Pigs are being used for the new study because their extracellular matrix is similar to that of humans, and because successfully transplanting the stem cells in a large animal model would pave the way for a clinical trial on humans.
The new study is a multidisciplinary collaboration between Dr. Terracio, a developmental biologist with nearly 40 years' experience in tissue culture of muscle; Dr. David N. Levy, an Assistant Professor of Basic Science & Craniofacial Biology at NYU, who is an expert in flow cytometry and cell sorting of stem cells; and Dr. Robert S. Glickman, Professor and Chair of the Mecca Department of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery, and an authority on facial bone reconstruction, also at NYU. A third coinvestigator, Dr. Michael Yost, a Research Associate Professor of Surgery at the University of South Carolina, is a biomedical engineer who developed the tissue scaffold for the study.