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Portrait of Regenerative Medicine

Professor Kent Leach is working to regenerate bone using a person’s own fat stem cells.

Can you imagine wounded soldiers being treated with stem cells from their own fat? Faculty members at UC Davis can.

Leach, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, is advancing regenerative medicine through his work on an innovative technology that embeds stem cells — which have been shown to stimulate growth of small blood vessels in developing bone — from a patient’s own fat into a gel-like material that is implanted directly into the injured site.

Leach has tested the technique in racehorses undergoing treatment for bone cysts at UC Davis’ veterinary medical teaching hospital with the help of Larry Galuppo, associate professor of veterinary medicine. Leach recently received more than $1 million in grant funding from the U.S. Army and National Institutes of Health to explore new approaches to using stem cells to treat wounded combat soldiers and veterans. Mark Lee, associate professor of orthopedic surgery at the UC Davis School of Medicine, is aiding this research.

The advantages of the new treatment include decreasing the chances that the body will reject the treatment and creating numerous transplant-ready cells. The current method of bone regeneration can be painful, requires a lengthy recovery period and is not feasible for severely injured patients.

“The expertise and resources at UC Davis enable my research program to progress at an accelerated pace,” said Leach, “and yield advances that substantially improve the quality of life for those in need.”

Leach has also received philanthropic funding to support his innovative work. In 2009 he received a grant from The Hartwell Foundation to support research to develop a new treatment for infants born with disorders that cause the sutures of their skulls to prematurely fuse together.