Edward Sander is a professor of biomedical engineering and Robert and Virginia Wheeler Faculty Fellow in Engineering. James Ankrum is an associate professor of biomedical engineering.
Tuesday, August 29, 2023
Ed Sander and James Ankrum
Edward Sander (left) and James Ankrum (right)

University of Iowa engineering faculty are studying how certain types of fat cells contribute to wound healing in hopes of discovering more effective clinical therapies for healing wounds and reducing scarring.  

Edward Sander, professor of biomedical engineering and Robert and Virginia Wheeler Faculty Fellow in Engineering, and James Ankrum, associate professor of biomedical engineering, are co-principal investigators of the study sponsored by a new National Institutes of Health grant. 

Specifically, Sander and Ankrum will study how adipose lineage cells contained in fat communicate with fibroblasts, a cell type that helps maintains the extracellular matrix (ECM), or structure, of a tissue. This communication has the capacity to direct fibroblasts to improve the repair process during healing so that less scarring occurs.  

Adipocyte lineage cells consist of adipose-derived stem cells, preadipocytes, and lipid-filled adipocytes. Each adipocyte lineage cell secretes a variety of different factors that signal to other cells, including fibroblasts, to engage in a range of activities.  

The professors hypothesize that some of these secreted factors are pro-scar forming and others are pro-regenerative. They plan to characterize and identify these factors using a novel 3D spheroid system, a type of cell culture model that will enable investigation of these interactions and quantification of the ECM produced. These findings could then be used to improve patient healing.  

The National Institute of General Medical Sciences recently awarded funding for the study called “Controlling Adipocyte-Myofibroblast Interactions to Improve Healing.” The agency awarded $333,001 for year one of what is expected to be a four-year $1.65 million study.  

Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R01GM145626. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.