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SEATTLE - (May 5, 2010) - Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason (BRI) received a $2.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to advance work in cytoprotection for tissue injury through its Center for Control of Inflammation and Tissue Repair (CITR). 

The CITR research team, founded in 2007, has been working to develop new therapies to improve cell survival in the first hours after injury and generate new, engineered tissues to repair or replace tendons, ligaments, muscles and blood vessels. Uniquely, these engineered tissues are constructed from natural biological materials and, ultimately, incorporate the patient's own cells to prevent tissue rejection. CITR's research focuses on helping soldiers with serious and life-threatening wounds, as well as civilians who sustain injuries from trauma or other diseases causing tissue loss.

In the last two years, CITR has demonstrated success using matrix scaffolds to design and fabricate prototype replacement tissues for extensive wounds where simple repair is not possible. Using engineered proteoglycans and natural collagens, the engineered tissues exhibit enhanced elasticity, strength and host cellular integration.

The new funding will be used to address a key challenge to clinical application of the technology that the team has identified — the host inflammatory response to the tissue replacements. The new cytoprotection research addresses a major barrier to effective cell-based therapies; namely, that after implantation of differentiated cells or stem cells, the viability of the cells is often threatened by the noxious microenvironment that develops within surrounding, inflamed tissues. BRI scientists will pursue a coordinated set of projects to develop and evaluate cytoprotective modulators of tissue-immune interactions, which will improve cell survival. Another component of the new grant is to develop a "smart bandage," containing biological factors that would dampen local wound inflammation and promote healing.

The goal of the CITR program is not limited to basic research, but rather is focused on future therapies. To this end, Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason is positioned to move advances from the laboratory toward therapies for patients through an approach referred to as translational research. This 'bench to bedside' method is accomplished by BRI in partnership with physicians and staff at Virginia Mason Medical Center, who are experienced in applying breakthroughs in basic science to patient care through controlled clinical trials.

"We are actively seeking new solutions for patients who are faced with the prospect of losing life-sustaining tissue. This is an exciting project, and we're pleased the Department of Defense chose to fund and support this important work," said Gerald T. Nepom, MD, PhD, principal investigator for the grant and director of Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason.

About the Center for Control of Inflammation and Tissue Repair (CITR)
The Center for Control of Inflammation and Tissue Repair combines internationally-known immunologists, extracellular matrix biologists, tissue engineers and transplant surgeons working together to develop new therapies for conservation, repair and reconstruction of traumatically-injured tissues, with the goal of achieving a maximum recovery of tissue function.

About Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason
Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason (BRI), founded in 1956, is an international leader in immune system and autoimmune disease research, translating discoveries to real-life applications. Autoimmune disease happens when the immune system, designed to protect the body, attacks it instead. BRI is one of the few research institutes in the world dedicated to discovering causes and cures to eliminate autoimmune diseases such as Type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, arthritis and many others. Visit BenaroyaResearch.org or Facebook/BenaroyaResearch for more information about BRI, clinical studies and the more than 80 different types of autoimmune diseases.

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