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Faculty Profile: Huakun Xu, MS, PhD

Written by Adam Zewe

Huakun Xu, MS, PhD, director of biomaterials and tissue engineering, leads research programs that could eventually change the landscape of patient care.

He and his colleagues have pioneered a study that shows how stem cells could potentially regenerate human tissue, such as bone. UMSOD scientists uncovered a method for injecting stem cells in a paste, so the treatment can be used in minimally-invasive surgeries. For example, one possible application of the stem cell paste is to inject it into the bones of an osteoporosis patient, repairing holes and defects before the patient suffers a broken bone. "That can save a patient a lot of pain and the medical system a lot of cost," Dr. Xu explains. Other potential applications include the repair of cranial and maxillofacial bone defects.

Dr. Xu also directs a project to develop tooth filling materials that can rebuild the structure of teeth. Antibacterial filling materials he and his colleagues are developing may prevent additional tooth decay. The technology will benefit patients and dentists, since oral bacteria that produce acids often create new cavities near tooth fillings. "Statistics show that a dentist can spend 50 to 70 percent of his time digging out old and failed tooth fillings," remarks Dr. Xu.

As director of the newly-formed Division of Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering, Dr. Xu works to raise the profile of research and earn grants to support projects. The division offers educational opportunities for dental students and residents who are interested in research. Dr. Xu attributes much of his success to the support of the school of dentistry, collaborations with local and national colleagues, and a hard-working research group. Together, they accomplish much more than each could individually, he states.

Dr. Xu loves studying, reading papers and interacting with other researchers. He finds satisfaction in the lab because he knows his research will potentially improve the lives of future patients. "Stem cells will be the next big trend. They provide promise and potential to heal many of the currently incurable diseases," he concludes.

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