January 28, 2021

Reprogramming On Demand

Dr. Indika Rajapakse, Associate Professor of Computational Medicine & Bioinformatics and Associate Professor of Mathematics at the University of Michigan, is researching ways to reprogram a person’s own cells to heal wounds faster.

"ARLINGTON, Va. (AFOSR) – The Air Force Research Laboratory’s cutting-edge research creates future warfighting technologies for the Air and Space Forces, protecting the lives of those that put themselves in harm’s way every day. Ground-breaking research into cellular reprogramming, made possible in part with funding from AFRL’s Air Force Office of Scientific Research, is leading to technology that could heal wounds more than five times faster than the human body can heal naturally, vastly improving long term health care outcomes for warfighters and veterans.

Dr. Indika Rajapakse, Associate Professor of Computational Medicine & Bioinformatics and Associate Professor of Mathematics at the University of Michigan, is researching ways to reprogram a person’s own cells to heal wounds faster. In order to get high resolution views inside live cells to better understand the wound healing process, Rajapakse submitted a Defense University Research Instrumentation Program proposal to purchase a live cell imaging microscope. Dr. Frederick Leve, Program Officer for AFOSR’s Dynamical Systems and Control Theory portfolio selected Rajapakse’s proposal.

The microscope also assists in gathering data for an algorithm which can mathematically identify when best to intervene in a cell’s cycle to heal wounds. Leve, in collaboration with Dr. Fariba Fahroo, AFOSR Program Officer for the Computational Mathematics portfolio, awarded Rajapakse a grant for research to improve this algorithm.

“There are amazing opportunities in the United States, that you don't see in the rest of the world, to humanize science and meet critical needs in medicine,” said Rajapakse. “We have the resources to do this, and it is our obligation to take full advantage of them. Thanks to the Air Force’s help, I was able to acquire the tools I need to advance my research into cellular reprogramming and wound healing.”

This funding connection was made possible by collaboration between the Air Force Research Laboratory's 711th Human Performance Wing, and Air Force Futures. Col. Charles “BB” Bris-Bois, the Air Force Disruptive Technology Team lead, was instrumental in making the connection between this novel technological concept and Air Force operational needs. The team saw a clear opportunity and helped Rajapakse reimagine his technology for other uses not immediately thought of such as aeromedical environments and how the presence of unhealed wounds increases aircrew susceptibility to hypoxia and other altitude related injuries."

READ FULL ARTICLE (Air Force Research News)