Robert F. Diegelmann, PhD

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  • B.S., 1965, Mount Saint Mary's College, Emmitsburg, MD
  • Ph.D., 1970, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. (Microbiology)
  • U.S. Public Health Service
  • Natl. Cancer Institute, Laboratory of Physiology, N.I.H., Bethesda, MD

The major research interest of this Laboratory of Tissue Repair is focused upon the signaling events that occur during tissue injury, shock and repair. Following injury, an orderly sequence of events is initiated to begin the healing process. The first stage begins at the time of injury when local environmental factors such as low oxygen tension, lactate accumulation, cell debris, and foreign materials serve as attractants to bring inflammatory cells to the area. Peripheral blood cells trapped in the clot and growth factors released from platelets play critical roles to initiate the repair process. Neutrophils are the first inflammatory cells to arrive at the wound site. As tissue macrophages are attracted to the area, chemical signals are sent out to stimulate the fibroblasts in the surrounding tissue to migrate to the site of injury and to proliferate. Several days following injury, the expanded population of fibroblasts becomes intensely active in synthesizing new extracellular matrix. During latter stages, the cells are engaged in a continuing process of wound remodeling. Biochemical observations made in the dermal repair models provide valuable clues to understanding the regulatory mechanisms involved in tissue repair throughout the body. When too much scar tissue is deposited, then the many clinical problems associated with fibrosis are seen such as keloids, hypertrophic scars, strictures, adhesions, liver cirrhosis and Crohn's disease. In contrast, when healing is impaired, chronic pressure, diabetic and venous stasis ulcers can develop. This laboratory has found recently that pressure ulcers contain excessive neutrophils in pressure ulcers that in turn release damaging enzymes such as MMP-8 and elastase that destroy the extracellular matrix and growth factors needed for healing. Strategies are being developed to inhibit the influx of neutrophils into the ulcer site and also to inhibit their destructive enzymes so healing may proceed. Our research studies involve human subjects, animal models and reconstituted tissue culture and cell culture systems. The laboratory has the capacity to examine these clinical problems using state of the art biochemical and molecular biology techniques. In recent years the laboratory’s research interests have been expanded and combined with other clinical scientists in the VCU Reanimation, Engineering and Science center. These new initiatives are focused on combat casualty care and the development of novel strategies to treat shock in trauma patients. In addition Dr. Diegelmann discovered and is the lead inventor of a novel technology able to control severe arterial hemorrhage and gastro-intestinal bleeding. His work in the field of hemostasis has been recognized by receipt of the US Army’s “Combat Casualty Care Research Award for Excellence.”

The Laboratory of Tissue Repair has a long history of research and training, dating back to 1972 and Dr. Diegelmann served as the Program Director of a NIH Institutional NRSA to train postdoctoral fellows in the area of tissue repair. Currently the Laboratory of Tissue repair is working in collaboration with Mathematicians, Computer Scientists and Biocomplexity scientists to develop an “Integrative Systems Biology Analysis of Tissue Injury and Repair” focused on trauma patients. Overall the laboratory is engaged in highly translational research to develop new strategies to treat the many clinical problems associated with tissue injury, tissue repair and shock. Dr. Diegelmann is an editor on the textbook “Wound Healing: Biochemical and Clinical Aspects”, served as a permanent member of the N.I.H. Study Section on Surgery, Anesthesiology and Trauma and is a consulting member of the General and Plastic Surgery Devices Panel of the Medical Devices Advisory Committee, Center for Devices and Radiological Health, Food and Drug Administration. In addition he is a founding member of the Wound Healing Society and served on the Board of Directors for many years and as President in 2012-2013.


View Dr. Diegelmann's Publications via the National Library of Medicine's PubMed.

Robert F. Diegelmann, PhD
Professor Dept. of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
Virginia Commonwealth University
VCU Massey Cancer Center
PO Box 980614
MCV Campus
Sanger Hall
1101 E. Marshall Street
Richmond, VA 23298-0614

  •      804-828-9677
  • P. 1 804 828 9762
  • 1101 E Marshall St
  • F. 1 804 828 1473
  • Richmond, VA 23298
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