One of the six researchers to receive a VCU Commercialization Fund award from Innovation Gateway is a Virginia Commonwealth University researcher who transitioned from cardiovascular bioengineering to skeletal muscle research after witnessing how difficult it was for some American veterans injured in Iraq and Afghanistan to lift a cup of coffee.
Michael McClure, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the Department of Biomedical Engineering in the College of Engineering who previously worked at the Hunter Holmes McGuire Veterans Affairs Medical Center, changed his postdoctoral research focus to focus on muscle tissue in an effort to enhance the veterans’ quality of life by restoring their full range of motion.
The rotator cuff injury was one of the most frequent muscle injuries, and McClure started his research by examining injuries resulting in volumetric muscle loss. Patients with rotator cuff injuries are less able to perform basic tasks and have a smaller range of motion because the “bridge” between the muscle and tendon is lost. In order to reconnect the muscle and tendon and allow the patient to gain muscle instead of losing it, he is creating a method that uses scaffold materials that specifically target that bridge. Patients with rotator cuff injuries will recover more quickly as a result of this.
Although other technologies employ comparable singular cell scaffolds, none are tailored to muscles. They concentrate more on the bones and tendons. According to McClure, “the market doesn’t really have anything else like this.” In order to improve recovery from these kinds of injuries, “I genuinely believe that something that’s muscle particular will offer you muscle specific outcomes that are going to be well received by the surrounding tissue.”
By examining how various cells interact with the scaffold, McClure will be able to improve the technology with assistance from the Commercialization Fund. That will serve as a guide for his research team as they try to predict how cells in the body would respond to the technology.
The Innovation Gateway awarded money to five additional researchers this spring who work in a variety of academic fields and departments. Virtual reality technology are the main topic of two awardees’ projects. While Lauren N. Siff, M.D., an assistant professor in both the Departments of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Surgery in the School of Medicine, and Nicholas Thomson, Ph.D., a developmental psychologist and assistant professor in both the Department of Psychology in the College of Humanities and Sciences and the Department of Surgery in the School of Medicine, are developing virtual reality technology called Grit VR to combat burnout and reduce stress for health care workers,