Excitement in the lab: Studying Talymed at MUSC
January 24, 2013
In the pursuit of scientific knowledge, laboratory research is the backbone of many fields. At the Medical University of South Carolina, the Department of Regenerative Medicine and Cell Biology heads up research into the Poly-N-acetyl glucosamine fibers that are at the heart of MPT’s groundbreaking healthcare products. Heading up the lab is Robin Muise-Helmericks, Ph.D.
“I’ve been here about 11 years,” Muise-Helmericks said. “I do about 75 percent research and 25 percent teaching.” Muise-Helmericks teaches first-year medical school students, as well as working with a special combined Ph.D. and MD program. In the lab, she studies various aspects of Talymed, from its main applications for wound healing to ancillary benefits like pain management and antibacterial effects.
“We study how Talymed activates endothelial cells,” she said. “We’ve looked at both cells in culture and animal models and so we find that the talymed not only activates wound healing in diabetic models but in wild type animals, via a number of different mechanisms. We’ve been able to show that not only does it promote wound healing but that it is also antimicrobial. It’s a nice combination of activities for treatment of healing wounds, especially since many get such nasty infections.”
Muise-Helmericks has been working with MPT for years, thanks to her previous association with Dr. John Vournakis. “Dr. Vournakis and I had known each other when he was at the Hollings Cancer Center … then after he left the medical university to focus on Marine Polymer he just called me one day to ask if I was interested in looking at the mechanism of Talymed in angiogenesis in wound healing and I said sure, that would be fun.”
And fun it is. Muise-Helmericks described how excited her whole lab staff gets working with Talymed. “We practically slather ourselves in it. If you get a cold sore, we put it on that. If you cut yourself... I put it on my kids. The whole lab bathes in it.”
But the real fun, Muise-Helmericks says, is knowing that her work will help improve patient healing and quality of life. She recalls a day when one of her graduate students couldn’t find a wound on a lab mouse that had been treated with Talymed. “We were looking at it and there was very little scarring,” she says. “So not only is it good for wound healing, but also it looks like scars just aren’t forming. Understanding the anti-scarring activity is going to be a very exciting project.”
Responding to new discoveries such as this is also a key part of lab science, she says. Scientists need to have the imagination to see what different results mean when they present themselves. “Science is hard work, but you still need to be creative.”