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Hassanein receives scientific research grant designed to overcome COVID disruptions

Al Hassanein, MD

38741-Hassanein, Al

Research scientists and those with dependents were significantly impacted by COVID-19 – spending roughly 40 percent less time on studies. To address this challenge, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF), through the support of the John Templeton Foundation, administered a grant called the “Fund to Retain Clinical Scientists” to extend research capacity among medical scientists who had experienced a surge in family caregiving and other research disruptions during the pandemic.

Al Hassanein, MD, assistant professor of Surgery in the Division of Plastic Surgery at the Indiana University School of Medicine was among the grant recipients to receive a FRCS grant, which was facilitated by the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute at Indiana University to support junior investigators. Ten awards were distributed to junior investigators via the IU School of Medicine Office of Research Affairs.

Dr. Hassanein is a board-certified plastic surgeon at IU Health, who specializes in breast reconstruction, including DIEP flap, lymphedema surgery and complex reconstruction. A major focus of his research at IU School of Medicine is to develop and study novel treatments to treat lymphedema, a localized swelling that occurs in patients after breast cancer surgery, due to the removal of lymph nodes.

The lab focuses on developing novel, non-surgical gene-based therapies using tissue nanotransfection technology (TNT), which was developed by Chandan K. Sen, PhD, and is part of IU’s Indiana Center for Regenerative Medicine and Engineering.  Tissue nanotransfection is a non-invasive therapy that can be implemented at the point of care. A goal of the lab is to improve lymphedema by creating lymphovenous shunts or connections similar to surgical lymphovenous bypasses, a fairly new technique that enables an outflow of lymphatic fluid, to treat lymphedema.

“Lymphedema is a problem a lot of patients develop after breast cancer surgery, where lymph nodes are removed from the axilla and they develop life-long arm swelling,” Dr. Hassanein said. “There’s no cure for lymphedema, and it’s a reminder for them after breast cancer of the traumatic experience they went through. I teamed up through this mentoring program with Dr. Chandan Sen, and he has been mentoring me to start a lab and to study through basic translational science lymphedema and novel approaches to tackle lymphedema.”

Dr. Hassanein said Dr. Sen has mentored him throughout the journey to develop novel lymphedema treatments.

“This little chip is able to deliver genes directly where you need it and reprogram the local environment to improve lymphedema,” Dr. Hassanein.  

With more than 50 scientists and staff, the Indiana Center for Regenerative Medicine and Engineering develops novel technologies that regenerate cells and tissues, that could ultimately lead to healing patients affected by disease, congenital effects, age and trauma. Our multidisciplinary team in medicine and engineering work in partnership with industry and government agencies to address several areas, including cell-based therapies; tissue engineering; wound, burn and inflammation; and military health.




The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.
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Angie Antonopoulos

Angie Antonopoulos is a Communications Generalist for the Krannert Cardiovascular Research Center at the Indiana University School of Medicine. Previously she served the Department of Surgery and the Indiana Center for Regenerative Medicine and Engineering. She has more than a decade of experience in health communications for higher education, advocacy, government and contract research organizations.