Director’s Message

Celebrating our Strength: Regenerative and Rehabilitative Medicine

A number of years ago, the School of Biomedical Engineering underwent an introspective process to determine a way to characterize its research strengths: (1) regenerative and rehabilitative medicine, (2) imaging and diagnostics, and (3) medical devices and therapeutics. Starting with this spring newsletter, we will celebrate each of these areas of strengths. It is particularly appropriate to celebrate the strengths of regenerative and rehabilitative medicine because this spring brings the opening of the new C. Wayne McIlwraith Translational Medicine Institute (TMI). The goal of this Institute is to foster the discovery and delivery of solutions that utilize the body’s healing capacity to improve the lives of animals and humans. The 130,000-square-foot facility is housed on Colorado State University’s Veterinary Medical Campus. Many of the faculty in this facility are derived from the Department of Clinical Sciences in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and the Department of Mechanical Engineering in the Walter Scott Jr. College of Engineering. Proudly, we can point to the fact that quite a number of these faculty are also core faculty in the School of Biomedical Engineering.

It is the essence of the School of Biomedical Engineering to explore translational solutions at the forefront of unmet medical needs.  A major focus of the TMI is on biologic therapies that leverage the body’s own abilities to heal.  These therapies may be stem cells or products related to or derived from stem cells.  The fact that we chose to label one of our strengths “regenerative and rehabilitative medicine” more than half a dozen years ago is interesting in light of a recent editorial note in the Nature Partner Journal npg Regenerative Medicine concerning the rise of “regenerative rehabilitation”.  This is an area where CSU will lead into the future.

In 1966, Robert F. Kennedy delivered a speech that included the statement “we live in interesting times.”  For the world of stem cells, that time is most certainly now.  There has been a recent call by a leader in the field, Arnold Caplan, to change the name of “Mesenchymal Stem Cells” (MSC) to “Medicinal Signaling Cells” (Caplan AI, Stem Cells Translational Med 2017; 6:1445).  This was followed by a call for “a coordinated global effort to improve understanding of the biology of the cells currently termed MSCs, and a commitment from researchers, journal editors and others to use more-precise labels” (Sipp et al., Nature 2018; 561:455).  This is further echoed by our own leader in the field, C. Wayne McIlwraith, for whom the TMI is named.  The problem to the public is the exploding number of “clinics” that make outrageous claims for the magical properties of stem cells without understanding whether and how any effects might be mediated.  The majority of scientific studies indicate that stem cells do not provide solutions by acting as a source of tissue cells. The investigators in the TMI are dedicated to determining how stem cells might lead to improving healthcare and do it in a way that will provide the understanding necessary to render therapeutic treatment options reliable.

I invite you to contact me at with your thoughts on this controversial topic.

Stuart Tobet, Director