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University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

Senator Rick Santorum Announces Funding For Soldier Treatment And Regeneration Consortium

$1 Million Will Support Regenerative Medicine Research for Combat Injuries and Trauma

PITTSBURGH, March 3, 2006 — U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) today announced $1 million in congressionally directed funding for medical research to improve treatment of soldiers wounded in combat. This funding will support the new Soldier Treatment and Regeneration Consortium (STRaC), a national partnership of leading military and academic research centers and industry, including the Pittsburgh Tissue Engineering Initiative and the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine of the University of Pittsburgh and University of Pittsburgh Medical Center .

STRaC-funded projects will focus on preclinical and clinical regenerative medicine research to engineer functional vascular, nerve and muscle tissue, as well as bone and cartilage, for the creation of digits and limbs. Extremity injuries caused by blast, blunt or penetrating trauma are particularly complex because of these many tissues involved, each with distinct functions. Using regenerative medicine techniques, including tissue engineering and cellular therapies, STRaC researchers will develop partial components as well as entire functional extremities. The five-year goal is the creation of a fully functional digit (finger).

University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Mark Nordenberg introduced Senator Santorum, noting that “This pioneering initiative has the potential to dramatically enhance the power of medicine to help repair damaged lives, even while it advances an increasingly important sector of this region's new technology-driven economy. We are privileged to be a part of this initiative and are grateful to Senator Santorum for his strong support.”

“Senator Santorum has championed medical research to improve therapies for the men and women of the armed forces who defend our nation,” said Alan J. Russell, Ph.D. , director of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, and executive director of the Pittsburgh Tissue Engineering Initiative (PTEI), which works to advance the field of regenerative medicine globally through research, education and industry development programs.

“The Senator was instrumental in securing nearly $10 million in prior funding for the National Tissue Engineering Center, administered by PTEI and the first large-scale regenerative medicine research initiative focused on combat casualty care,” Dr. Russell said. “STRaC will build upon NTEC progress and provide a national infrastructure for development of new therapies to treat devastating combat injuries in a way that maximizes the opportunity for full restoration of tissue function.”

The Senator made the announcement while visiting PTEI and the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, where he met with a cadre of high-ranking military medical officers who detailed the great need for advanced medical therapies for the horrific wounds caused by conventional weapons and improvised explosive devices. While significant improvements in body armor have greatly increased survivability, the wounded sustain far more serious injuries, including a rate of limb amputation twice as high as Vietnam. Approximately six percent of those wounded in Iraq have required single or multiple amputations.

In addition to PTEI and the McGowan Institute, STRaC partners include the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research, Fort Sam Houston, Texas; U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command; the San Antonio, Texas-based TRISAT Trauma Collaborative; Walter Reed Army Medical Center; Regenerative Medicine Foundation; Tissue Genesis, Inc., Honolulu, Hawaii; and the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

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