Carle appoints new research director

By Megan McNamara

Carle Foundation Hospital recently hired a new director of research to work in tandem with the University. Suzanne Stratton, Ph.D., will be bringing her expertise to central Illinois.

“I wasn’t looking for a job originally,” Stratton said. “I initially came out here as a consultant, but I was so impressed with the resources here that I left millions of dollars in grants behind in Arizona.”

According to a press release from Carle Hospital, Dr. Stratton was selected because of her background in obtaining government funding and managing clinical trials, as well as her experience in discovering a potentially new way to more accurately diagnose prostate cancer.

“My background is in translational research in prostate cancer, as I am a molecular biologist,” Stratton said. “I want to emphasize that the focus for Carle research will not be just prostate cancer – it’s a lot more global. We will focus on cardiovascular diseases, digestive disorders, senior care/Medicare and the clinical application of adult human stem cells.”

Stratton wanted to clarify that the stem cells used in her research are not the controversial cells extracted from the fetus.

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“These are stem cells that are circulating in everyone’s blood,” Stratton said. “One of Dr. Michael Goldwasser’s (of Carle Hospital) patients was a young soldier shot in Iraq. We can do facial reconstruction for people who have been shot or injured in an accident using stem cells to regrow bone.”

Carle Hospital and the University’s Institute for Genomic Biology are working together on adult stem cell research. The Regenerative Biology & Tissue Engineering research theme, led by Lawrence B. Schook, professor of animal science, will focus on healthy tissue samples taken from consenting Carle patients during surgeries.

According to a press release from Carle Hospital, the goal is to isolate adult stem cells in the tissue, then grow them in experimental devices. These types of tissue can be placed into injured regions to promote regeneration of tissue in the body. Possible applications would be in facial and oral surgical repairs, repairing knee damage caused by football and soccer injuries, or in conjunction with knee and hip replacements.

Stratton hopes to work closely with the University in studies like these.

“There is an abundance of resources here, that’s why I came here,” Stratton said. “However, for a lot of projects that have been developed, the pieces are there to take them a step further, but the funding isn’t.”

Stratton hopes to secure funds to take the studies a step further.

“There is a lot of ongoing research that could be going into the translational stage,” Stratton said. “Translational research is taking it out of the lab and putting it into the clinic – going from the bench to the bedside.”

Translational research consists of a long set of experiments which lead to human trials that test drugs, diagnostics, devices such as a heart valves and also techniques, such as a new method of surgery – but it costs money.

“We want to secure funds from the National Institute of Health and gain national recognition,” Stratton said.