Smithfield Foods Inc. and the University of Virginia (UVA) School of Engineering & Applied Science announced Feb. 20 a research partnership to explore and advance regenerative medicine technologies leveraging porcine bioproducts.
The research is part of a collaborative project between UVA and Smithfield Bioscience, a strategic business platform within Smithfield Foods that is focused on supporting a range of biotechnology solutions in areas of human therapeutics, tissue fabrication and regenerative medicine.
"Nearly 1 million Americans suffer from injuries, disorders and diseases that result in a significant amount of skeletal muscle loss each year," said Courtney Stanton, vice president of Smithfield Bioscience & Renewable Bioproducts. "From our wounded veterans to babies born with a cleft lip to those who have suffered traumatic accidents, there is an overwhelming need for bioengineered skeletal muscle. This research and partnership with UVA is a promising step toward meeting this demand."
The goal of this research is to develop and test a tissue engineering process for skeletal muscle repair and regeneration using porcine-derived materials. Leveraging these porcine materials has its advantages because it can be muscle specific prior to implantation and more easily accepted by the human body. Researchers will also conduct proof-of-concept studies, which are a critical step in pursuing clinical trials.
"The research partnership between UVA and Smithfield Bioscience represents engineering at its best, as this partnership seeks to leverage the strengths of both organizations to ultimately use engineered cells and tissues as products that will benefit patients," said Frederick H. Epstein, chair of UVA's biomedical engineering department and professor of radiology and medical imaging.
This research is an important part of a larger consortium of about 100 organizations, including Smithfield and UVA. These organizations are coming together under the Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute that is working to accelerate regenerative tissue research and creating state-of-the-art manufacturing innovations in biomaterial and cell processing for critical U.S. Department of Defense and civilian needs.
George Christ, a UVA professor of biomedical engineering and orthopedic surgery, the Mary Muilenburg Stamp professor of orthopedic research in the School of Medicine and co-director of UVA's new $3 million Center for Advanced Biomanufacturing, explained, "There's been a tremendous amount of money and time spent on research and development in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, but the ability to manufacture the cells, tissues and biomaterials needed on a scale large enough to truly transform patient care doesn't exist. By partnering with Smithfield Bioscience and leveraging porcine bioproducts, we are hoping to help change all of that."
Dr. A. Bobby Chhabra, chair of orthopedic surgery for the UVA Health System, said, "We are hopeful that this research collaboration will reveal new technologies for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, which would revolutionize the treatments physicians provide to patients with injuries involving large-scale muscle loss associated with upper and lower extremity trauma."