University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg hosted Admiral Mike Mullen and Mrs. Mullen during their visit to Pittsburgh on April 19, 2010. Admiral Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is the principal military advisor to President Obama, the Secretary of Defense, and the National and Homeland Security Councils. Joining Admiral Mullen and Chancellor Nordenberg on the McGowan Institute visit was Congressman Tim Murphy (PA-18th).
While in Pittsburgh, Admiral and Mrs. Mullen visited the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine
, and during their 2.5-hour visit to the Institute, McGowan faculty introduced the Mullens to emerging regenerative medicine technologies as well as to patients who have benefited by some of the new therapeutic procedures developed by McGowan-affiliated faculty. The McGowan Institute has a rich history of collaboration with the military, having received over $50 million in DOD funding in the past 10 years.
The Admiral Mullen itinerary also included visits to several veteran-related services and health care organizations, including the Veterans Leadership Program of Western Pennsylvania, the H. John Heinz III Progressive Care Center of the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, the Center of Excellence for Wheelchair and Related Technology--a partnership between Pitt, the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, and UPMC--and a Town Hall Meeting Hosted by Pitt.
Researchers at the McGowan Institute demonstrated advances being made in hand transplantation, vision restoration, the regeneration of muscle and tissue, burn therapies, traumatic brain injury therapies, and soft-tissue reconstruction. The following amplifies on the emerging regenerative medicine technologies introduced to Admiral Mullen:
Regenerating Muscle and Tissue in Wounded Warriors:
McGowan Institute deputy director Stephen Badylak, DVM, PhD, MD
, introduced Admiral Mullen to the use of tissue engineering to regenerate damaged or lost tissue as a result of trauma or burns. Dr. Badylak was joined by CPL Isaias Hernandez, a patient of Steve Wolf, MD, at the U.S Army Institute for Surgical Research. Due to battlefield injuries, CPL Hernandez had severe muscle loss in his thigh, and using the Badylak-developed extracellular matrix (ECM) technology, Dr. Wolf has been able to restore functionality to CPL Hernandez’s leg.
Picture: Dr. Badylak and CPL Hernandez show Admiral and Mrs. Mullen ECM scaffolds.
Autologous Cell Sprayer for Burn Therapy:
McGowan Institute faculty member Jörg Gerlach, MD, PhD
, and Alain Corcos, MD, UPMC Division of General Surgery, overviewed the use of a procedure to treat severe burns by spraying the burns with the patient’s own cells. Using a skin cell gun invented by Dr. Gerlach, the device sprays cells onto burned areas in a fine mist which expedites healing and reduces scaring. The cell spraying approach to burn therapy was introduced by Dr. Corcos. Studies here and abroad suggest that this approach reduces the time to recovery and the extent of full restoration of the burned area.
Picture: Dr. Corcos leads a discussion on alternative burn therapy.
TBI: 10 years of Clinical Regenerative Medicine in the Brain:
McGowan Institute-affiliated faculty member Douglas Kondziolka, MD
, met with Admiral and Mrs. Mullen to review his pioneering studies in neuro-regeneration and the directions that holds most promise in the treatment of traumatic brain injury (TBI). Strategies include the nature of care immediately following the injury as well as the post-injury therapies. Dr. Kondziolka’s pioneering studies in the treatment of stroke have paved the way for potential TBI therapies.
Picture: Admiral and Mrs. Mullen with Dr. Kondziolka.
Traumatic Brain Injury Video Technology Demonstration:
Admiral Mullen and his wife, Deborah, observed the demonstration by Steve Audia and Donald Marinelli, PhD, of a customized Wii gaming system that could be used to test for traumatic brain injury. Dr. Marinelli and his team at the Carnegie Mellon Entertainment Technology Center are using “game systems” as the base for innovative training and assessment methods.
Picture: Steve Audia shows Mrs. Mullen the modified Wii gaming system. DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist Chad J. McNeeley.
Soft-Tissue Reconstruction in Wounded Warriors:
McGowan Institute-affiliated faculty member J. Peter Rubin, MD
, overviewed the pioneering studies in the restoration of devastating facial injuries using innovative surgical technologies based on the biology of fat tissue. The research program is investigating how soft tissue grafting can more precisely restore facial form and improve the lives of our wounded soldiers. The use of fat grafting for serious facial injuries, such as those resulting from roadside bombs, is facilitated in this project by specially designed devices and instruments for harvesting the fat tissue and implanting it into regions of scarred tissue.
Picture: Dr. Rubin with Admiral and Mrs. Mullen.
Vision Replacement for Wounded Warriors:
Amy Nau, OD, UPMC Eye Center, and McGowan Institute faculty member Major General (Ret.) Gale Pollock
demonstrated the use of the BrainPort vision assist device with the assistance of patient, Clarence “Butch” Schultz (Retired Navy – 3rd Class). The BrainPort system uses a miniature TV camera that sends impulses to an electrode array that the user places on his/her tongue. The impulses on the tongue recreate a visual “image” that facilitates the user perceiving their environment.
Picture: Admiral Mullen and Butch Schultz discuss the BrainPort.
Cell-Based Immunotherapy for Hand Transplants:
McGowan Institute-affiliated faculty member Vijay Gorantla, MD, PhD
, and Gerald Brandacher, MD, Division of Plastic Surgery, introduced patient CPL Josh Maloney (USMC – Ret.). CPL Maloney is one of three patients that have received hand transplants at UPMC. One of the innovations that has been used for these transplant recipients is a new immunosuppression protocol developed at UPMC that reduces the number of and the strength of immunosuppression drugs required.
Picture: Mrs. Mullen and CPL Josh Maloney.
Illustrations: Unless otherwise noted, McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
Joint Chiefs of Staff News (04/19/10)
U. S. Department of Defense News (04/19/10)
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (04/20/10)
Business Week (04/20/10)
Facebook: Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Twitter: Deborah Mullen
U.S. Department of Defense (04/30/10)
Federal Telemedicine News (05/05/10)