Researcher | Research Overview
Dario Fauza's research is directed at developing original, more effective ways to repair birth defects, both pre and postnatally. To that end, he has pioneered a variety of approaches. One is fetal tissue engineering, or the use of fetal cells to produce tissue to repair congenital anomalies. This concept involves the minimally invasive procurement of fetal cells, which are then employed to engineer tissue in the laboratory while pregnancy is allowed to continue, so that a newborn, or a fetus with a prenatally diagnosed birth defect can benefit from having autologous, expanded tissue readily available for surgical reconstruction, either before or after birth. Fetal cells can be obtained from the fetus, amniotic fluid, placenta, or umbilical cord blood. This concept has been applied successfully in many large animal models, for the creation of various types of fetal tissue used in the treatment of several anomalies, including congenital diaphragmatic hernia, tracheal atresia or stenosis, chest wall defects, bladder extrophy, cranial malformations and cardiac anomalies. Related projects for the treatment of additional birth defects are also ongoing. Regulatory approval of the first human application of this therapeutic concept is currently being pursued.
Another area of interest to Dr. Fauza is the treatment of spina bifida. He has first demonstrated experimentally that neural stem cells delivered to the fetus still in the womb can partially repair damaged areas of the spinal cord, which could lead to improved outcomes in the treatment of this devastating disease. He is now perfecting the methods for isolation of neural and mesenchymal stem cells, as well as of their pre and/or postnatal administration, before human trials can be pursued.
Dr. Fauza has also pioneered what he has coined Transamniotic Stem Cell Therapy (TRASCET), a novel therapeutic paradigm for the treatment of different birth defects based on the principle of harnessing/enhancing the normal biological role of select populations of stem cells that occur in the amniotic fluid for therapeutic benefit. He has discovered that amniotic fluid-derived mesenchymal stem cells (afMSCs) are central to the enhanced ability of the fetus to repair tissue damage. This germane finding was not only the first demonstration of a biological role for any amniotic cell, but has also provided validation for the use of afMSCs in regenerative strategies. Subsequently to that discovery, he has also first shown, in various animal models, that the simple intra-amniotic delivery of afMSCs in very large numbers can either elicit the repair, or significantly mitigate the effects associated with major congenital anomalies by boosting the activity that these cells normally have. This pragmatic approach, feasible as a relatively simple outpatient procedure, would be easily accessible to most pregnant women carrying a baby with a birth defect and from a very early point in gestation, thus maximizing therapeutic impact. Given the autologous use of fetal cells procured and delivered by the least invasive of methods, a plain amniocentesis, into their own native environment, this concept is ethically unobjectionable. Also here, regulatory approval of the first clinical trial is currently under review.
Researcher | Research Background
Dario Fauza received an MD from the University of Sao Paulo Medical School, in Brazil, where he also received a PhD-equivalent degree and completed an internship and residencies on both general and pediatric surgery. He then moved to the United States, where he completed different clinical and research fellowships, as well as postdoctoral training, all at Boston Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School.
He is the recipient of numerous research awards and funding grants, as well as of a Fellowship Ad Eundem (i.e. by invitation) from the Royal College of Surgeons of England, the first surgeon from his home country to receive such an honor. He has an extensive bibliography and has been awarded patents in multiple countries.