HARTFORD - David Rowe says a special breed of mice he is developing at the University of Connecticut Health Center might one day help reveal new treatments for severe limb injuries, like the ones US troops are returning with from Iraq.
Rowe, a professor of reconstructive medicine, recently began work on growing mice that will not reject human embryonic stem cells. The goal is to put the cells into the mice and regrow fractured bones and damaged tissue.
"The hope is you can use these strategies . . . to potentially recreate the tissue that was traumatically lost," he said. "The war injuries that our troops are sustaining . . . are causing unimaginable destruction of the limbs. In the past they succumbed to these injuries. Now they're surviving them."
Rowe is one of several researchers in Connecticut who received in March the first grants from the state's nine-year, $100 million stem cell research program. Six months into the projects, the scientists say labs and equipment are in place, staffs have been trained, and the research is about to begin.
Stem cells are the body's foundation cells and can be manipulated to grow into all types of human tissue and organs, according to the International Society for Stem Cell Research. Scientists say stem cells show promise in finding cures for cancer, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and other diseases.
Because the federal government does not fund research on new embryonic stem cell lines, several states have approved programs for such research. California's $3 billion commitment is the largest in the country.
Rowe's project was awarded $3.5 million after its scientific merits were reviewed by a panel of specialists from outside the state who look at all applications to Connecticut's program.
Rowe said his focus is on turning embryonic stem cells into bone, cartilage, joints, skeletal muscle, and skin.
If UConn researchers are successful in getting human stem cells to regenerate bones in mice and document how to do it, they can apply to the Food and Drug Administration to test the procedure on humans. But Rowe said such a request is years away.