New Orleans's Leading Local News: Weather, Traffic, Sports and more | New Orleans, Louisiana | WWLTV.com

Medical discovery made in New Orleans is headed to space

On Wednesday (Dec. 5), a cargo spaceship will bring a medical gel created by scientists at Tulane University to the International Space Station.

Just after noon, Wednesday, the SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft will lift off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

It's mission: to deliver supplies and equipment to the International Space Station. And part of that cargo is a discovery made by two young women in New Orleans.

While Dr. Elaine Horn-Ranney and Dr. Parastoo Khoshakhgh were working on their PhDs in biomedical engineering at Tulane University, they discovered a gel. They hope one day it will replace major, invasive, expensive surgery to fix torn ear drums in children, with a quick office visit.

The scientists say the gel patch, called Perf-Fix, heals a torn ear drum in a couple of weeks, compared to surgery that can take months.

"We actually just published a paper recently that shows the really incredible images of the regenerated tissue from the ear drum that is, grows with our product," explained Dr. Horn-Ranney who is the CEO of Tympanogen, LLC.

That led to competitions, awards and grant funding, and with the help of the Tulane Technology Transfer and Intellectual Property Development office, the scientist started their company Tympanogen, LLC.

"They came here. They worked with Dr. Michael Moore in his lab at Tulane. They came up with the technology," said Tulane Licensing Associate Gregory Stein. "They worked with our office in order to get that technology protected in terms of the intellectual property, and then they worked with the business school here at Tulane, won $25,000 at the Tulane Business Model Competition to get their company going, and now you can see, now they're going off into space. So what else can you ask of them?"

More current research with the gel shows it could be used for wound care on the battlefield for targeted delivery of antibiotics. With experiments up in microgravity, it could help to gain knowledge to see if it can prevent infections in astronauts.

"If I could go back in time and tell my 12-year-old self that I would someday have something that was going to be touched by an astronaut, on the International Space Station, I would not have believed myself," Dr. Horn-Ranney laughed.

"We want other females to also believe in themselves and believe that they can do it. And it's nothing scary. There's nothing scary about science and math and computer science and material science, none of them" said Dr. Khoshakhgh, a co-founder of Tympanogen, LLC.