The center is developing methods for direct reprogramming to induce transdifferentiation of one somatic type cell into another cell type for therapeutic applications in healing. For example, fibroblasts migrate into areas of a myocardial infarction to form scars where heart tissue is damaged. If they could be transformed into endothelial cells at the site of damage, they could instead form the microvasculature needed to provide an environment that nurtures cardiac stem cells. This would improve healing with functional tissue, rather than with scar tissue.
The team is actively developing small molecules to induce human fibroblasts to transdifferentiate into endothelial cells. By combining these small molecules with nanotechnology-based delivery systems, the team is also enhancing this approach, by increasing the retention time. This optimizes the specificity of targeting to damaged tissue, and improves both pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics by fine tuning the sustained and controlled release parameters.