Story at a glance

  • University of Michigan researcher Indika Rajapakse is working with the Air Force on ways to reprogram human cells to speed up the natural human healing process.
  • The technology could eventually lead to the improvement of the long-term health outcomes of soldiers and veterans, as it could be used for treating war wounds, burns, skin grafts or organ transplants.
  • The research involves cellular reprogramming, which is the process of taking one type of human cell, such as a muscle cell, and reprogramming its genome so that it becomes a different type of cell, such as a skin or blood cell.

The U.S. Air Force is funding new cutting-edge technology that it says could heal a person’s wounds more than five times faster than the human body can naturally, officials announced Thursday. 

University of Michigan researcher Indika Rajapakse is working with the Air Force on ways to reprogram human cells to speed up the natural human healing process. Rajapakse secured funding from the military branch to purchase a special live cell imaging microscope and improve an elaborate algorithm to advance the research. 


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The technology could eventually lead to the improvement of the long-term health outcomes of soldiers and veterans as it could be used for treating war wounds and burns and for skin grafts or organ transplants, according to the U.S. Air Force

“We have the resources to do this, and it is our obligation to take full advantage of them,” Rajapakse, associate professor of computational medicine & bioinformatics and associate professor of mathematics at the University of Michigan, said in a statement

The research involves cellular reprogramming, which is the process of taking one type of human cell, such as a muscle cell, and reprogramming its genome so that it becomes a different type of cell, such as a skin or blood cell. Proteins called transcription factors are used to turn various genes in a cell on and off to regulate cell growth, division, migration and organization. 

Researchers said the application of the right transcription factors to a wound could accelerate healing time fivefold, compared to if the wound healed naturally. The transcription factors could be administered through a “spray-on” bandage where they would be applied directly to wounds, theoretically converting exposed muscle cells into surface skin cells that would heal faster. 

The Air Force notes that “identifying which transcription factors make the required changes to create the right kind of cell requires a long process of trial and error.” Researchers are working on an algorithm to identify the right transcription factors.

Details about when the technology could possibly become a reality were not immediately available. 


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Published on Jan 29, 2021