Integrated personalized cell technologies for improving health outcomes in children and adults

R & D

MSCs for Xerostomia

Hypofunction of salivary glands and xerostomia (dry mouth) are some of the major complications following radiotherapy for head and neck cancer and may lead to debilitating oral disorders and impaired quality of life. Currently, there are no treatments for these conditions and only sympotomatic care is available.

However, mesenchymal stromal cells (MSC) therapy has shown promising results in pre-clinical studies. Indeed, bone marrow-derived MSCs have been found to improve salivary functions and reduce lympocytic infiltrate in mice with dry mouth syndrome. More efficient and substantial is the administration of interferon gamma (INFg)-licensed MSCs. Objectives of this project are to assess safety and efficacy in a first-in-human trial on autologous bone marrow-derived INFg-licensed MSCs therapy for radiation-induced Xerostomia.

Randall Kimple, MD, PHDRandall Kimple, MD, PHD is an associate professor in the Department of Human Oncology. In his clinical practice, he specializes in treating patients with malignancies of the head and neck. He is a member of the UW Multidisciplinary Head and Neck Program and works closely with head and neck surgeons, medical oncologists, radiologists, speech and swallow therapists and other specialists to best meet the individual patient’s needs.

His research laboratory is focused on understanding why cancers don’t always respond to treatment. He uses patient-derived xenografts—patient tumor samples grown in animals—to test radiation, chemotherapy and combinations of therapies to understand which characteristics of a patient’s tumor may predict response to treatment. The goal of this work is to enable more personalized treatment and to find ways to combine different treatment methods to decrease treatment side effects without reducing cure rates. He also teaches undergraduate, graduate and medical students as well as residents and postdoctoral fellows.



Grace Blitzer, MDGrace Blitzer, MD, is currently a Radiation Oncology Resident in the Department of Human Oncology. Dr. Blitzer has earned an RSNA Grant to support her work on the Xerostomia project. She is completing studies to enable the FDA IND and phase I clinical trial examining mesenchymal stromal cells in humans with dry mouth. She is interested in pursuing translational research throughout her career, helping laboratory innovations move to clinical trials for the benefit of her patients.




MSCs for ARDS for COVID-19

Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is seen in critically ill patients, and is present in ~10% of all patients in intensive care units worldwide. Identifying a potent immunotherapy against ARDS is particularly important in the present scenario of Corona virus disease 2019 (COVID-19), since most patients of COVID-19 eventually develop ARDS.

The UW Program for Advanced Cell Therapy (UW PACT) has deployed an ultrasensitive FDA-sanctioned Intracellular Cytokine Staining (ICS) laboratory assay to enumerate by flow cytometry virus-reactive IFNγ+ memory and effector T-cells in support of its investigational studies of allogeneic CMV-specific T-cells for antiviral resistant CMV disease currently conducted at UW.

Objectives of this project are to develop a GMP-compliant flow-based assay for enumeration of IFNγ-expressing SARS-CoV-2 -specific blood T-cells and correlate SARS-CoV-2-specific T-cell frequencies [CD3+CD4+, CD3+CD8+] as predictive biomarkers of COVID-19 clinical and immune outcomes.

Erick TarulaErick Tarula, MD, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Neurosurgery. He specializes in neurocritical care with special interest in stroke, subarachnoid hemorrhage, status epilepticus and traumatic brain injury. His teaching interests include resident and medical student acute care neurology for the intensive care unit (ICU) and the emergency department (ED).