Awards and recognition
Dr. Sruthi Purushothaman (she/her) has been fascinated by the mysteries and science behind tissue regeneration for more than 12 years. She first studied this ability in creatures like zebra fish and starfish during her Master’s degree in India and then salamanders during her PhD in the USA. Dr. Purushothaman has since honed her research to focus on digit tip (fingertip) regeneration in mice, with translation potential for human health applications. Her current research project in Dr. Freda Miller’s lab explores which ingredients in a cellular environment are essential for digit tip regeneration and the role of stem cells in this process. Dr. Purushothaman received a Micheal Smith Health Research BC Trainee Award to assist her in expanding this exciting work. She will receive $60,000 per year, for up to three years, to pursue this research, in addition to a travel allowance. Building on her breakthrough findings, published in Cell Reports, that revealed how nail mesenchymal cells were essential for regeneration, Purushothaman is leveraging this knowledge towards new discoveries.
“We found these unique cells that are important for early stages of digit tip regeneration in mice. Now we want to understand these cells better and uncover three details about them: Firstly, are these cells important for later stages of regeneration? Second, what molecules are they secreting and third, how important are these molecules in regeneration compromised situations? ”explains Dr. Purushothaman.
The project is currently undertaking a computational approach to identify ligands (active molecules secreted by the nail mesenchyme cells) that are important for digit tip regeneration. During digit tip regeneration specific ligands can instruct neighboring cells to undergo proliferation and regenerate the missing tissue. In the lab, this project utilizes state of the art methodology, called MERFISH, to visualize ligand molecules and their interacting partners on digit tip tissues.
“We will be inserting different ligand candidates into our current models trying to initiate regeneration. Every human reacts differently to different growth factors, so this work is helping to broaden the array of candidate factors for possible therapeutic use,” says Purushothaman.
Nearly two million people in North America are living with lower limb loss as a result of complications from traumatic injury, cancer and peripheral vascular diseases like diabetes. Dr. Purushothaman hopes to use her research to identify growth factors that can be used by human patients to circumnavigate the challenges surrounding fibrosis (scar tissue generation) versus tissue regeneration due to these injuries.
“Our next step in the research is looking for ‘magic’ molecules that we can place into a fibrosis scenario and see success with regrowth of tissue,” says Purushothaman.
While the animal model findings are promising, there is still much to understand about how and why regeneration is occurring in the first place and how to translate these discoveries to tackle human health challenges. Dr. Purushothaman is grateful for the opportunity the MSHR BC funding provides for her burgeoning career.
“Receiving this funding will help me in early career development to conduct research and apply for external funding in future. I’m really excited about that. It is a great way to prepare for my own lab that I hope to start in a couple of years,” she reflects.
The potential impacts of Dr. Purushothaman’s research are exciting to consider. Fine tuning one of the most clinically relevant models of mammalian tissue regeneration, Purushothaman and the Miller lab’s work will surely contribute to better human health outcomes in the future. We congratulate Dr. Purushothaman on this award and watch her research progress with much hope and excitement.