Sean V. Murphy, PhD, Assistant Professor

Dr. Sean Murphy received his Bachelors degree in Molecular Biology (Honors) from the University of Western Australia in 2006 and his Ph.D. in Stem Cell Therapy in 2012. His thesis work focused on developing perinatal stem cells as a therapy for lung disease and contributed to an ongoing Phase I clinical trial for the treatment of bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) in preterm infants. Dr. Murphy joined Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine in 2012 as a Postdoctoral Fellow and became an Assistant Professor in 2015.


1. Perinatal stem cell therapy for lung disease.

2. 3D bioprinting a tissue engineered airway.

3. Lung organoid and microfluidic technology for disease modeling and drug discovery.

4. Reversing established lung fibrosis with small molecules.

5. Perinatal tissue-derived biomaterials for wound healing applications.


The goal of my current and future research is to apply regenerative medicine and tissue engineering strategies to develop new clinical treatments for lung disease. 

These strategies include cell therapies to restore normal function to lung tissue and minimize inflammation and scarring associated with disease. Diseases such as bronchopulmonary dysplasia and cystic fibrosis are often diagnosed before, or shortly after birth, so an effective therapeutic intervention at an early stage could prevent the onset of disease. Perinatal stem cells, derived from perinatal tissues such as the amniotic fluid, placenta and placental membranes, have potent immune-modulatory properties and multipotent differentiation potential. We have shown that perinatal cells are an effective anti-inflammatory therapy for the treatment of lung disease. This work has culminated in a Phase I clinical trial evaluating perinatal cells for the treatment of bronchiopulmonary dysplasia in pre-term infants. 

For patients where early intervention is not possible, such as those with end stage lung disease, there are currently few treatment options other than transplantation. To overcome this challenge, we have developed strategies to generate tissue engineered airway tissue for disease modeling, drug testing and transplantation. This research has included the development of techniques and tools such as patient-specific induced pluripotent stem cells, airway and lung tissue deceullarization, extracellular matrix hydrogels, and 3D bioprinting technology. The outcomes of this multidisciplinary approach includes the fabrication of patient specific airway constructs for transplantation, “disease-in-a-dish” approaches to cystic fibrosis disease modeling, and microfluidic lung-on-a-chip organoids for the high throughput screening and evaluation of novel drugs and small molecule therapies for patients with lung disease.

The therapeutic value of perinatal tissues is widely recognized, with the first modern application of amniotic membrane for wound covering and reconstructive purposes first described in the early 20th century. However, while the use of amnion membrane in clinical settings is advantageous, it is a somewhat difficult material to incorporate into routine use. Limitations included difficulty to handle the thin sheets without folding or tearing, and the requirement for sutures or adhesives to hold the membrane in place over the wound. To address these limitations, we have developed an amniotic membrane based biomaterial that can be easily delivered to full thickness wounds or burns either as a powder or hydrogel. Amniotic membrane-derived biomaterials are easy to manufacture, store and apply to full thickness wounds. In our preclinical studies our therapy produced significantly faster wound healing compared to the current standard of care, with a histological and extracellular matrix composition most similar to healthy skin. We are currently planning a Phase I clinical trial for evaluation of our material to treat burns and wounds.

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Institute for Regenerative Medicine

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