(TEMPLE, TX) — The Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine and Scott & White Healthcare hosted an open house Nov. 13 welcoming Darwin J. Prockop, M.D., Ph.D., as director of the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Scott & White.

The open house was at the Scott & White West Campus in Temple.

Dr. Prockop is the inaugural holder of the Stearman Chair in Genomic Medicine and professor of molecular and cellular medicine at the HSC-College of Medicine. He was recruited to the HSC-College of Medicine and Scott & White from Tulane University, where he served as director of the Center for Gene Therapy.

The HSC-College of Medicine and Scott & White have pledged a combined excess of $40 million to establish the institute. Researchers will use adult stem cells to develop new therapies to combat osteoarthritis, diabetes, Parkinson’s, spinal cord injury, stroke, Alzheimer’s, cardiac, kidney and pulmonary diseases. The institute also will provide academic programs for career development and job training and serve as an engine of new scientist development for Texas.

“Thanks to the research of hundreds of scientists and doctors over many decades, we now understand the principles by which the body heals itself,” Dr. Prockop said. “We have done this in large part by the discovery of adult stem-like cells that can be easily isolated from a patient or normal volunteer and can heal damage to almost any tissue in the body. For the first time, we can plan to use cells that are part of the natural system of tissue repair to treat devastating diseases.”

Dr. Prockop and a team of more than 30 researchers, scientists and technicians are currently preparing for clinical trials using adult stem cells on diabetes patients.

There are two types of stem cells. Embryonic stem cells are harvested from embryos four to five days after fertilization and can develop into any type of tissue. Adult stem cells are in tissues throughout the body and provide a reservoir for replacing damaged or aging cells, as they develop into just one or two different kinds of tissue.

“The recruitment of Dr. Prockop’s team of talented investigators will ensure that the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine and Scott & White are at the forefront of regenerative medicine and research,” said Christopher C. Colenda, M.D., M.P.H., the Jean and Thomas McMullin Dean of the HSC-College of Medicine. “This will benefit both institutions, but more importantly, it will benefit the citizens of the state of Texas who will have the potential to access leading edge health care.”

Previous research by Dr. Prockop and his colleagues at St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital resulted in improvements in children with a genetic disease that made bones extremely brittle (osteogenesis imperfecta). Among other projects slated for launch next year are the use of adult stem cells for regeneration of knee cartilage defects in athletes; treatment for fecal incontinence among women who underwent episiotomies during childbirth; and use of a patient’s own stem cells to treat heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

“We are pleased that Central Texas is now home for this unique and groundbreaking work and that the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine is investing in this region’s future,” said Alfred B. Knight, M.D., president and CEO of Scott & White.

The state-of-the-art institute is comprised of more than 40,000 square feet of research space, with 28,000 square feet devoted to laboratories and 6,000-square-feet to a clinical Good Manufacturing Procedures laboratory.

An internationally-recognized investigator and member of the Institutes of Medicine (IOM) and the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), Dr. Prockop is a pioneer in human bone marrow-derived stem cells, their biology and clinical applications. His group is recognized as a world leader in the production and characterization of adult stem cells.

Dr. Prockop was awarded a $4.3 million grant by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 2003 to establish the first laboratory for the preparation and distribution of adult stem cells from bone marrow stroma to academic scientists at centers in the United States and abroad. To date, shipments have been made to approximately 250 research centers worldwide, and they have just been awarded $5.4 million for a five-year renewal of the grant.

Dr. Prockop is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship to Oxford University. After an initial training period at the NIH, he served as a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and then a head of departments at Rutgers Medical School, Jefferson Medical School and Hahnemann Medical School. He was a professor of biochemistry at Tulane from 1996 to 2008 and has received three honorary degrees, two distinguished alumnus awards and the Lee C. Howley Prize of the Arthritis Foundation for research in arthritis.

“The goal of the Institute for Regenerative Medicine is to use the generous resources provided to us to develop new treatments with adult stem cells here in Temple, Texas,” Dr. Prockop said. “We are not certain that all our efforts will succeed, but as we examine the results that we and others have produced in the laboratory, we cannot find any convincing reasons why the therapies will not work. We still do not know the limits of the cells, but we will begin to test those limits, proceeding as carefully as possible.”

— Marketing & Communications