Tulane Center for Gene Therapy Expands

August 8, 2005

Fran Simon
Phone: 504-247-1425

The Tulane Center for Gene Therapy announced a grant of more than $9.5 million from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health to study the use of adult stem cells for lung diseases. The five-year grant will fund four projects involving investigators at the Tulane and LSU Health Sciences Centers. In addition, Tulane announced a major expansion of the center's activities.

"We're excited to announce today the expansion of our gene therapy program," says Paul Whelton, senior vice president for health sciences at Tulane. "With the expertise we have in the field of regenerative medicine and the excitement about the future of adult stem cell therapy, Tulane is investing additional resources and space."

The four lung disease projects will study the use of adult stem cells to repair damaged tissue from asbestos exposure, emphysema and cystic fibrosis. Researchers also will try to determine which stem cells will produce the most beneficial results.

The Tulane Center for Gene Therapy, directed by Darwin Prockop, has pioneered adult stem cell research in pulmonology for more than two years, Whelton says.

"Most lung diseases destroy the architecture of the lungs," Prockop says, "so they represent difficult problems. We have to learn how to correct the defect with adult stem cells and restore lung function," says Prockop, principal investigator on the new grant. "Adult stem cells seem to have an almost miraculous capability to go to damaged tissue to repair the damage."

The Tulane Center for Gene Therapy is in the process of making its "good manufacturing process" laboratory operational, where adult stem cells will be produced for use by researchers around the world, bringing additional jobs and income to Louisiana, Prockop says.

The four projects funded by the grant involve laboratory and animal research; clinical trials with people who have lung diseases are a future goal. In addition to Prockop, project leaders for the grant are:

- Arnold Brody, professor and vice chairman of pathology and director of lung biology, and Joseph Lasky, professor and chief of pulmonary diseases, critical care and environmental medicine at the Tulane University School of Medicine

- Bruce Bunnell, associate professor of pharmacology and chief of the gene therapy division at the Tulane National Primate Research Center, and Guoshun Wang, assistant professor of medicine and genetics at LSU

- Judd Shellito, Lowenstein Professor of Medicine, professor of microbiology, immunology and parasitology, and David A. Welsh, assistant professor of medicine at LSU.

Additional collaborators on the projects include Brian Butcher, research professor of medicine and associate director of the Tulane Center for Gene Therapy, Donald Phinney, associate professor of microbiology and immunology, and Deborah Sullivan, research assistant professor of pathology at the Tulane University School of Medicine.

For more information on the Tulane Center for Gene Therapy, go to:

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000