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  • Writer's pictureDaniel Dodd

Higuita-Castro and Purmessur awarded a new $2.5M RO1 grant from NIH

Congratulations to Drs. Higuita-Castro and Purmessur for recently receiving a National Institutes of Health (NIH) RO1.

Drs. Devina Purmessur and Natalia Higuita-Castro, Assistant Professors in Biomedical Engineering, have been awarded a new five-year, $2.5M RO1 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Their NIH-funded project is titled “Novel non-viral reprogramming strategies to treat Discogenic back pain via engineered extracellular vesicles.” In this grant, Drs. Purmessur and Higuita-Castro will use novel engineering approaches to reprogram diseased cells in the intervertebral disc into healthy cells that can alleviate pain. This exciting research is highly multidisciplinary and includes the following co-investigators Dr. Benjamin Walter (BME), Dr. Safdar Khan (Orthopedics), Dr. Olga Kokiko-Cochran (Neuroscience) and Dr. Brett Klamer (Biostatistics).

Project Summary: The underlying causes of low back pain are an enigma despite the huge socio-economic burden of this debilitating disorder, with current surgical interventions proving ineffective and highly invasive. The goal of this proposal is to establish the effects of non-viral delivery of developmental transcription factors using engineered extracellular vesicles (EVs) to reprogram native diseased IVD cells from painful intervertebral discs in situ to a healthy biosynthetically active anti-nerve/vascular phenotype using clinically relevant animal models of back pain. Non-viral gene delivery with engineered EVs is a novel concept for the treatment of discogenic back pain and there is a critical need to develop non-addictive treatments that target both the underlying cause of disease as well as pain to improve human health and quality of life.





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