Could your body lend clues to healing relationships?

A scientist is researching healing after COVID-19 and also co-authors a book with faith message.
Could your body lend clues to healing relationships?
Published: Aug. 12, 2021 at 6:03 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 13, 2021 at 12:00 AM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - An East Tennessee scientist is researching ways to heal the lungs from COVID-19 damage and is also co-authoring a book on healing relationships.

Former Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientist Cynmbeline “Bem” Culiat wrote the book Designed to Heal along with physician and theologian Jennie McLaurin. These two doctors collaborated to merge science and faith ideas into one book for a general audience.

Culiat’s doctorate is in biomedical sciences, leaving ORNL and founding NellOne Therapeutics, which is developing a patented protein to use for healing the body.

“As we go through life we have a lot of hurt and brokenness. That the only way to heal well is to be in a good community that promotes healing,” said Culiat. “So I use basically the biological effect of NELL1 in allowing tissue to secrete a good environment as a metaphor for we need good communities that promote healing.”

Culiat said she and McLaurin were careful to create a book that is an easy read full of inspirational stories while drawing on science.

Culiat did extensive research on the NELL1 protein during her time at ORNL.

“I discovered the function of the NELL1 gene and its role in tissue healing,” said Culiat.

Now at her own laboratory, she has a patent and a grant for more research.

“We have an issued patent on it, and we’re using the protein as a drug that can be administered in different tissue injuries,” said Culiat.

The National Science Foundation issued a $250,000 research grant and the lab has applied for a matching grant from Tennessee meant for small businesses doing innovative projects.

“We’re doing a bigger study to look at lung and lung tissue healing,” said Culiat.

While the technology is in the research phase now, it could eventually help a patient whose lungs have deteriorated from COVID-19 or another medical problem.

She has found a way to merge her faith and love of science.

“As I learn more about how amazing the biological processes are, that strengthens my faith, because it moves me into wonder and awe,” said Culiat.

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