The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded Rebekah Margaret Samsonraj, PhD, assistant professor in the department of biomedical engineering at the University of Arkansas, a $466,266 NSF grant for research on bioprocessing stem cell-derived therapeutics.

The goal of the project is to understand mechanisms of biophysical modulation of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) to enhance the secretion of bioactive extracellular vesicles that can mediate tissue repair and regeneration. A major bottleneck in MSC-derived extracellular vesicles biomanufacturing is their scalability during product development to achieve clinically relevant doses.

Rebekah Margaret Samsonraj, PhD

Current practices rely on invasive manipulations to cells and culture conditions which have either damaging implications on the final product or incur high costs and operate at small scales making them less viable for best-practice manufacturing, according to Samsonraj.

This study is designed to improve MSC-derived extracellular vesicles production through noninvasive modulations of MSCs feasible for large-scale manufacturing. This NSF Future Manufacturing Seed Grant will be used to help allow identification of cellular responses to biophysical modulations and evaluate improvements to overall secretome, EV production, and functionality.

The study will not only add new fundamental knowledge on mechanotransduction in MSCs, but also provide functional evidence for overcoming large-scale manufacturing challenges in MSC production, noted Samsonraj.

“I’m grateful to receive this competitive grant from NSF to study the fascinating characteristics of MSCs which can be harnessed for accelerating novel cell-based therapies,” she said. “We’re thrilled to receive federal support to advance our innovative research on MSCs. This is an outcome of tremendous efforts by our team, and we are looking forward to impactful results.”

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