Derfner Foundation Funds Novel Research in Regenerative Medicine at Kessler Foundation

Derfner Foundation grants support a study of a new intervention for shoulder pain in wheelchair users and the inaugural postdoctoral fellowship in regenerative rehabilitation research  

East Hanover – May 7, 2018 – Kessler Foundation has received funding from the Derfner Foundation to support applying rehabilitation research to the area of regenerative medicine (“regenerative rehabilitation”).  Through the combined gifts, which total $129,000, researchers are investigating a new treatment using micro-fragmented adipose tissue injection for chronic shoulder pain in wheelchair users with spinal cord injury (SCI) and training a doctoral-level scholar for a career in regenerative rehabilitation.

Rotator cuff injuries are a common cause of pain and loss of function among manual wheelchair users with SCI. When pharmacological treatment and physical therapy fail to address the pain, rotator cuff surgery is often the only option. Injection with micro-fragmented adipose tissue is being tested as an alternative when conservative treatments fail. The procedure involves harvesting, processing (using the Lipogems® system), and injection of a sample of the person’s own fat into the shoulder joint under ultrasound guidance. Fat tissue provides cushioning and fills structural defects, and may deposit bioactive and regenerative elements in the damaged tissues. This pilot study is the first to examine the safety and efficacy of the injection of micro-fragmented adipose tissue for chronic shoulder pain in individuals with SCI.

“Because wheelchair users have a high risk for poor outcomes after shoulder surgery, exploration of alternative treatments is extremely important,” explained Trevor Dyson-Hudson, MD, director of SCI Research at Kessler Foundation. “So far, we’ve had six participants undergo the intervention and all have experienced better range of motion and less pain,” he noted. “While results are preliminary, it appears that injection with adipose tissue prepared using the Lipogems system may be effective in treating shoulder pain from rotator cuff injuries in persons with SCI.”

The grant-funded post-doctoral fellow will work under the leadership of Drs. Dyson-Hudson and Gerard Malanga, physiatrist at New Jersey Regenerative Institute and Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, and a renowned specialist in the nonsurgical treatment of orthopedic and sports-related injuries. “With the Derfner Foundation’s support, we can expand the capacity of Kessler Foundation’s rehabilitation research program to investigate promising regenerative medicine treatments. This new fellowship in regenerative rehabilitation is an important step toward exploring how integrating regenerative medicine with rehabilitation medicine can improve quality of life for people with SCI.”

“The scientists at Kessler Foundation are well equipped to harness the tools of rehabilitation medicine and regenerative medicine for the benefit of people with disabilities,” remarked Jay Lieberman, trustee of the Derfner Foundation. We look forward to following their progress in this new avenue of research.”

Kessler Foundation recently joined the International Consortium for Regenerative Rehabilitation (ICRR). The ICRR is an assemble of leading scientists and clinicians across the domains of regenerative medicine and rehabilitation science that facilitate the creation and transfer of knowledge associated with the development and translation of technologies that restore function and enhance the quality of life of patients. Drs. Dyson-Hudson and Malanga serve as delegates on the ICRR Leadership Council.

About Kessler Foundation

Kessler Foundation, a major nonprofit organization in the field of disability, is a global leader in rehabilitation research that seeks to improve cognition, mobility and long-term outcomes, including employment, for people with neurological disabilities caused by diseases and injuries of the brain and spinal cord. Kessler Foundation leads the nation in funding innovative programs that expand opportunities for employment for people with disabilities. Learn more by visiting

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Carolann Murphy, PA; 973-324-8382; [email protected] 
Laura Viglione, MS; 973-323-3675; [email protected]

For more information, contact:
Deb Hauss, [email protected]
Carolann Murphy, [email protected]

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