Research Discovery Focus of New Project July 28, 2017
Myo/Nog Cell Research at PCOM
Mindy George-Weinstein, PhD, (left) and Jacquelyn Gerhart, MS, are shown conducting
research at PCOM.
Cells discovered by researchers at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM) are at the center of a new multi-institution, multi-million-dollar research
Those cells—called Myo/Nog cells—were discovered nearly 30 years ago by Mindy George-Weinstein,
PhD, professor and chief research and science officer at PCOM, and Jacquelyn Gerhart,
MS, coordinator of PCOM’s research support staff and bio-imaging facility. Myo/Nog
cells are critical for normal embryonic development and also are involved in wound
healing and cancer. The George-Weinstein laboratory, which included PCOM students,
developed methods for identifying, tracking, isolating and killing these cells. Their
technologies and findings have led to numerous papers, external grant support and
several patents describing methods to target Myo/Nog cells in different diseases.
The role of Myo/Nog cells in the embryo is clear; they communicate with their neighbors
by producing a molecule called Noggin that controls the actions of other potent molecules.
When Myo/Nog cells are eliminated in the early embryo, development of the brain, eyes
and muscles is severely impaired. Myo/Nog cells are also present in normal and injured
tissues of the adult and in tumors. The goal of the research supported by the three-year
award is to provide a more comprehensive understanding of the impact that Myo/Nog
cells have on tumor growth, wound healing and neuroprotection.
The project is funded by an anonymous gift to The Cooper Foundation, in honor of Richard
Lackman, MD, professor and director of orthopaedic oncology at the MD Anderson Cancer
Center at Cooper University Health Care (CUHC).
Myo/Nog cells were discovered nearly 30 years ago by Dr. Mindy George-Weinstein, PCOM
professor and chief research and science officer, and Jacquelyn Gerhart, MS, coordinator
of the College's research support staff and bio-imaging facility.
“The goal of this entire project is to bring us closer to developing therapies that
either eliminate or add Myo/Nog cells to treat cancer, non-healing or abnormally healing
wounds, and neurodegenerative diseases,” said Dr. George-Weinstein. “The award also
will serve as a springboard for the team’s investigators to expand their extramurally
funded projects and explore additional aspects of Myo/Nog cell behavior. Ultimately,
we envision that strategies directed at Myo/Nog cells will be important components
of treatments that cure or slow the progression of multiple diseases,” she added.
Of the total amount, PCOM will receive $622,147 to study the roles of Myo/Nog cells
in the eye and brain. As part of these studies, the team will test a new drug formulation
developed by Dr. George-Weinstein, Ms. Gerhart and their long-time collaborator Robert
Getts, PhD, vice president of research and development and chief science officer at
Genisphere, LLC. The drug, formulated with 3DNA nanocarrier, specifically kills Myo/Nog
cells. The lens will be injected with the drug during cataract surgery to prevent
the vision-impairing disease called posterior capsule opacification. The group is
collaborating with Mark Byrne, PhD, founding department head and professor, Department
of Biomedical Engineering of Rowan University, to develop a slow-release preparation
of the drug. Arturo Bravo-Nuevo, PhD, associate professor of neuroscience at PCOM, will examine the role of Myo/Nog cells
in protecting neurons in conditions that cause degeneration of the retina and brain.
The Executive Leadership Team of the project includes Drs. Lackman and George-Weinstein,
and Spencer Brown, PhD, professor, Cooper University Health Care (CUHC) and Cooper
Medical School of Rowan University (CMSRU). Along with Ms. Gerhart and Drs. Bravo-Nuevo
and Byrne, project leaders include Kathryn Behling, MD, PhD of CMSRU and CUHC, and
Igor Kuzin, MD, PhD and Zeus Antonello, PhD of CUHC. Drs. Behling, Kuzin and Antonello
will study the roles of Myo/Nog cells in normal wound healing, scar tissue formation
and tumors that arise in the supportive tissues of the body and muscle. The award
will also support the training of students and medical residents.
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About Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
For the past 125 years, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM) has trained
thousands of highly competent, caring physicians, health practitioners and behavioral
scientists who practice a “whole person” approach to care—treating people, not just
symptoms. PCOM, a private, not-for-profit accredited institution of higher education,
operates three campuses (PCOM, PCOM Georgia and PCOM South Georgia) and offers doctoral degrees in clinical psychology, educational psychology, osteopathic
medicine, pharmacy, physical therapy, and school psychology. The college also offers
graduate degrees in applied behavior analysis, applied positive psychology, biomedical
sciences, forensic medicine, medical laboratory science, mental health counseling,
physician assistant studies, and school psychology. PCOM students learn the importance
of health promotion, research, education and service to the community. Through its
community-based Healthcare Centers, PCOM provides care to medically underserved populations.
For more information, visit pcom.edu or call 215-871-6100.
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