McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine faculty member Stefan Schneeberger, MD (pictured), General and Transplant Surgeon and Visiting Research Assistant Professor of Surgery, University of Pittsburgh Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute, has a primary clinical as well as research interest in hand transplantation. Based on a background in clinical hand transplantation, he is investigating strategies to minimize immunosuppression in composite tissue allotransplantation (CTA) in experimental settings. In this context, he specifically addresses the skin, which has been shown to be the primary target for rejection, and combines this approach with novel concepts that allow for minimization of systemic immunosuppression. It is his distinct goal to develop a clinically relevant treatment protocol for CTA in order to make it a therapeutic option for all patients that could benefit from such a procedure.
CTA is the transplantation of a composite of more than one tissue (example: nerves, skin, muscles, tendons, bones, cartilage, and fat) between individuals of the same species. Worldwide, several types of CTA are now being done or are considered good candidates to be done in the future. Successful surgeries to date include hand, double arm, double forearm, partial face, and partial abdominal wall transplants. Other CTA possibilities include the scalp, ears, genitalia, and body wounds. Most, if not all, of these would only seem appropriate when risks from taking immunosuppressive drugs have been significantly reduced.
Dr. Schneeberger, director of the CTA Program at the University of Pittsburgh, believes that day will come, and when it does, it will be a great boon to many people, perhaps more so in other countries than here.
"The pioneers in the field are in privileged countries," he says, "but millions of patients in other countries could profit from this. . . . Some countries have 10 times more amputees than we do."
Although CTA recipients have all been adults so far, Dr. Schneeberger believes that eventually it might be especially useful in treating birth defects.
Illustration: McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
Los Angeles Times (09/01/08)
Bio: Stefan Schneeberger, MD
Bio: Stefan Schneeberger, MD, University of Pittsburgh Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute