Table of Contents
UT Houston and Rice join DoD in regenerative medicine research
The Department of Defense project with UTH and Rice University will help wounded soldiers
The Department of Defense (DoD) announced that The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and Rice University will be part of the search for innovative ways to quickly grow large volumes of bone tissue for craniofacial reconstruction for wounded soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The research program is a broad, national effort which will function as a virtual institute to rapidly apply the latest techniques in regenerative medicine to the treatment of injured soldiers. DoD officials today unveiled the Armed Forces Institute for Regenerative Medicine (AFIRM). AFIRM is made up of two civilian research consortiums working with the U.S. Army Institute for Surgical Research at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio.
One civilian consortium is led by the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center Institute for Regenerative Medicine and the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. The other is led by Rutgers University and the Cleveland Clinic.
Mark Wong, D.D.S., associate professor and chairman of the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at The University of Texas Dental Branch at Houston, and Antonios Mikos, Rice's J.W. Cox Professor of Bioengineering and the director of Rice's Center for Excellence in Tissue Engineering, are partnering with the Wake Forest consortium to anchor AFIRM's efforts in the Texas Medical Center. UT Houston and Rice will receive $2 million over the next five years.
"We are honored to be part of this consortium, which will allow us to bring to fruition many years of collaborative research with Rice University and apply novel techniques to aid the reconstruction of devastating facial defects sustained by our military personnel," said Wong.
AFIRM will be dedicated to repairing battlefield injuries through the use of regenerative medicine, science that takes advantage of the body's natural healing process to restore or replace damaged tissue and organs. Therapies developed by AFIRM will also benefit people in the civilian population with burns or severe trauma. Technology investigated in facial reconstruction will include the use of biological frameworks that promote tissue regeneration and the delivery of different drugs and proteins to prevent infection and promote wound healing. Additional tissue engineering projects that employ biological tissue and adult stem cells to reconstruct lost appendages such as ears and noses will also be investigated.
Thanks to an existing relationship between the military and the UT Dental Branch's oral and maxillofacial surgery residency program, the military's own trauma surgeons will get firsthand experience with new facial reconstruction techniques developed and tested by AFIRM.
"We are fortunate to have a close relationship with UT Houston where we can get experience with wider variety real-world trauma situations, similar to those we would see in Iraq and Afghanistan," said Capt. Curt Hayes, D.D.S., chief resident of oral and maxillofacial surgery at Wilford Hall Medical Center, Lackland AFB, TX (San Antonio).
AFIRM has committed to develop clinical therapies over the next five years that will focus on the areas of burn repair, wound healing without scarring, craniofacial reconstruction, limb reconstruction, regeneration or transplantation, and compartment syndrome, a condition related to inflammation after surgery or injury that can lead to increased pressure, impaired blood flow, nerve damage and muscle death.
In addition to developing clinical treatments, AFIRM will serve as a training facility to develop experts in treating trauma with regenerative medicine and will serve as a resource to help the military develop tissues as needs are identified.
Tissue engineering is a biomedical discipline that aims to quickly grow human tissues like bone, cartilage and skin that can be surgically transplanted without risk of rejection. Tissue engineers often use a patient's own cells as the basis for new tissue, placing them on biodegradable templates and stimulating them with chemical and physical cues.
"This is the sort of groundbreaking translational research that is being conducted in our new research facility, the Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences, a state-of-the-art clinical research facility funded by one of the first Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) from the National Institutes of Health," said Peter Davies, M.D., Ph.D., executive vice president for research at the UT Health Science Center at Houston.
Wong's longstanding collaboration with Mikos is the foundation for the research. This partnership has been rewarded by several grants from the National Institutes of Health, the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Foundation and has also provided the basis for a joint educational program combining an oral and maxillofacial surgery residency program with a Ph.D. in bioengineering.
Along with his Rice appointment, Wong holds surgical appointments at Memorial Hermann - Texas Medical Center, Lyndon B. Johnson General Hospital, Ben Taub General Hospital and The Methodist Hospital. Wong is a director of the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, the certifying body for the specialty, and will be appointed president in 2010.
"All of our efforts, both here in Houston and around the nation, are aimed at moving forward immediately to deliver therapies to the thousands of soldiers who have been wounded in this time of war," Mikos said.
Mikos, a founding editor of the journal Tissue Engineering and president-elect of the North American Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine International Society, is a leading expert on tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.
"Dr. Mikos and Dr. Wong have been pioneers in the development of new tissue engineering technologies that can be used for facial reconstruction for victims of catastrophic injury," said Davies.
UT Houston President James Willerson, M.D., said, "This is a most significant endeavor and is a tribute to the strength we can achieve through collaboration in the Texas Medical Center.
" Collaborators and sub-contractors for the Wake Forest-McGowan team, along with the UT Health Science Center at Houston and Rice, include Allegheny Singer Research Institute, the California Institute of Technology, Carnegie Mellon University, Georgia Tech, Intercytex, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, North Carolina State University, Oregon Medical Laser Center at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center, Organogenesis, Stanford University, Tufts University, the University of California-Santa Barbara, the University of North Carolina, the University of Wisconsin, the U.S. Army Institute for Collaborative Biotechnology and Vanderbilt University.
Each of the civilian consortiums was awarded $42.5 million over five years. In addition, the groups are bringing local public and private matching funds to the research for a total of more than $250 million. Rice and UT Houston are two of the 46 member institutions in the Texas Medical Center (TMC), the world's largest medical complexes. TMC institutions conduct more than $1 billion worth of research and see more than 5 million patients each year.
"Rice and UT Houston's AFIRM research program calls for doctors and bioengineers to work side by side to rapidly translate new discoveries from the laboratory to the operating room," said Rice Provost Eugene Levy. "This is an outstanding example of the kind of joint, tightly interwoven research that will be greatly facilitated and that Rice plans to conduct with UT Houston and its other TMC partners in the new Collaborative Research Center slated to open in mid 2009."
By Natalie Wong Camarata, Institutional Advancement
Previous story Next story