New Orleans, LA

Tulane spin-out company receives grant to work on new treatment for pelvic organ prolapse

Pierre St-Jean

NEW ORLEANS, LA - Tulane University spin-out company, BioAesthetics Corp, has received a $256,000 grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to develop a new graft for treating pelvic organ prolapse or POP.

This award is part of the National Institutes of Health Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program which funds research with high commercialization potential.

Tulane researcher Kristin Miller, an associate professor of biomedical engineering whose lab will conduct the graft testing, is collaborating with BioAesthetics, whose CEO and COO are both Tulane graduates.

The mission of BioAesthetics is to improve people's lives through biomaterial advancements. The company's first product is an acellular graft for regenerating the nipple and areola in breast cancer patients who have had a mastectomy. To improve treatment outcomes and patients' quality of life, the company is developing new next-generation grafts for POP, burns, and pressure ulcers.

Female POP occurs when the pelvic floor muscles and connective tissues fail to support the pelvic organs. POP affects between 33% and 50% of all women worldwide, causing incontinence, frequent urinary tract infections, bleeding, and pain.

Approximately 12% of all women with POP will require surgery to restore organs to their original positions. Stitches, synthetic mesh implants, or grafted tissue are typically used to provide support during the procedure.

However, surgical success rates are low, with more than 40% of vaginal POP surgeries utilizing native tissue failing within two years. Synthetic surgical mesh was recently banned in the United States and several other countries because it carries significant safety risks, such as chronic infection, nerve and tissue damage, and genital tearing.

“The suboptimal surgical outcomes are largely due to the fact that the female reproductive system is drastically understudied, limiting the ability of engineers to design effective treatments that match the properties of healthy tissues within the pelvic floor,” said Miller, who was recently awarded the 2021 ASME Y.C. Fung Early Career Award for her contributions in advancing the bioengineering fields’ understanding of the female reproductive system.

BioAesthetics' novel graft, an acellular biologic graft reinforced with biodegradable, biocompatible polymers, will be tested in Miller's lab to compare its elasticity and strength to that of normal pelvic floor tissue and to evaluate the graft's healing and performance in a rodent model.

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