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Pitt gets $12 million DoD contract for regenerative medicine treatment trials

PITTSBURGH, May 25 A two-year, $12 million contract with the U.S. Department of Defense Office of Technology Transition (OTT) will jumpstart human trials of three innovative research programs that aim to replace scars and defects with healthy, functional tissues, announced officials of the University of Pittsburgh and the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine today at the Institute's Second Annual Open Session, Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall, Oakland.

The OTT mission emphasizes the rapid translation of preclinical research into human studies to bring successful therapies more quickly to everyday practice, said Alan Russell, Ph.D., director of the McGowan Institute, a joint effort of Pitt and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), and leader of the new program.

"This initiative provides fiscal support and also represents a shared commitment to the goal of helping soldiers return to the lives they have put on the line for us," he said. "All these projects could deliver much-needed solutions for the ills that plague our wounded warriors. They are designed to give back what has been lost or taken away: normal tissues that function properly, adapting to our changing biological environment to keep us healthy and whole."

In particular, the OTT initiative will focus on efforts to:

  • Replace muscle tissue through extracellular matrix, a protein- and growth factor-rich biological scaffold that appears to recruit stem cells and other precursors to injury sites; primary investigators Stephen Badylak, D.V.M., M.D., Ph.D., deputy director, McGowan Institute and J. Peter Rubin, M.D., Pitt School of Medicine

  • Bring to clinical testing an injectable, porous bone cement for the repair of craniofacial bone defects and restoration of normal bone growth and remodeling; primary investigators Bernard J. Costello, D.M.D., M.D., Pitt School of Dental Medicine; Prashant N. Kumta, Ph.D., Edward R. Weidlein Chair, Pitt Swanson School of Engineering; and Charles Sfeir, D.D.S., Ph.D., Pitt School of Dental Medicine

  • Evaluate the injection of human fibroblasts, a type of connective tissue cell, into contracted burn scars to soften the skin and allow greater freedom of movement; primary investigators J. Peter Rubin, M.D., Pitt School of Medicine, and Paul Kemp, Ph.D., founder, chief scientific officer and executive director, Intercytex

Battlefield mortality has decreased from 30 percent in World War II to less than 10 percent in the conflicts of the present day, partly due to advances in medicine, surgery and trauma care. Still, injured soldiers are returning home with life-changing wounds, including finger and limb amputations that have doubled in rate since WWII.

The OTT Initiative is funded by the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO). The projects, if successful, could ultimately lead to interventions that also benefit civilians, noted Arthur S. Levine, M.D., senior vice chancellor for the health sciences and dean, School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh.

"Muscle loss, bone damage, and severe scarring that restricts natural movement are not uncommon consequences of traumatic accidents or surgeries that require a large amount of tissue removal," he said. "We must find more ways to help individuals who are struggling with the aftermath of these potentially devastating problems."


Contact: Anita Srikameswaran
University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

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