Interdisciplinary Work to Repair, Replace, Rejuvenate, and Regenerate

Despite enormous advances, surgery - cutting through and, at times, removing bone and soft tissue - still involves very real patient risk. To reduce the risk surgeons rely on research to advance the effectiveness of diagnostic, decision-support, surgical, and post-surgical tools and devices. 

It is a type of research for which our department is ideally suited. Here, vascular surgeons work with mechanical engineers to better understand blood flow. General surgeons work with bioengineers and experts in nanotechnology to create biomaterials that will emit therapies to encourage cell growth and survival.

And our Pediatric Surgical Research laboratory explores ways to induce or generate bone, skin and other tissues that are missing or deficient. For one, we are trying to develop biologically-based therapies to prevent keloids (pathological scars) from forming, something for which more than 2 billion people worldwide are at risk following any surgical procedure. 

In addition, we are working with multi-potentĚ cells that in the lab have demonstrated an ability to form a variety of new cells. Stem cells have the highest public profile, but we are actively exploring other options, particularly bone marrow and adipose (fat) cells. This work known as tissue engineering and regenerative medicine - has far-reaching implications for any surgical patient.

To advance this work, bioengineers helped us create a proper environment to seedĚ multi-potent cells so they can grow to meet a particular need. Legal and ethical scholars help us through the thorny areas of cell-based research. A prominent genomics lab with enormous computational power lives next door to us. All of which means we can move our work along with unusual efficiency so we can bring it to our patients as quickly as possible.

The Value of Fat

A recent article in Nature Biotechnology, documented how researchers from the Pediatric Surgical Research program used adipose (fat)-derived stromal cells to regenerate bone in the skull of mice.

Working with bioengineers who created an apatite-coated scaffold on which the fat cells could seed, the researchers were able to regenerate the bone without using growth factors or gene therapy. This is an exciting development, both because of the results and because fat cells are more widely and readily available than either stem or bone marrow cells and could be harvested from the patient's own body.

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