For over 25 years, Dr. Robert Sackstein has extensively investigated the structures that direct cell migration in blood flow, such as those molecules that cause braking on E-selectin. Collectively, these molecules are called the "homing receptors" because they act as the navigators in directing the homing of cells into tissues. All cells that gain entry to any tissue from the blood have these molecules on their surface. Studies in the Sackstein laboratory have yielded strategies to control the display of the homing receptors to achieve tissue-specific migration of cells. The capability to maneuver cells in this fashion allows for repairing damaged organs and tissues (i.e., stem cell-based "regenerative medicine"). It also has immense implications for immune cell therapy (i.e., "adoptive immunotherapeutics") for cancer or infectious diseases. This technology can precisely steer trafficking of cells within the bloodstream into degenerated/inflamed/damaged tissue (e.g., for stem cell-based cure of diseases like osteoporosis and diabetes) or into diseased tissues (e.g., for the use of T cells that can destroy cancer or combat infectious diseases).
Robert Sackstein, M.D., Ph.D., is dean of the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine and Senior Vice President for Health Affairs at FIU. His lab is housed in the Translational Glycobiology Institute at FIU, located on the 4th floor of Academic Health Center 5.