U.S. Department of Defense Awards Penn Medicine Team $2 Million Grant to Investigate Emerging Field of Advanced Transplantation

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Media Contact:Katie Delach | Katie.Delach@uphs.upenn.edu | 215-349-5964September 26, 2013

A team of researchers at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP), in partnership with colleagues at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), have been awarded a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). The grant is part of the Restorative Transplantation Research Cooperative Agreement (RTR) – a $9.3 million consortium led by researchers at Emory University provided through the DoD’s Clinical and Rehabilitative Medicine Research Program. Grants awarded to the consortium will support research studies aimed at improving advanced transplant procedures for patients suffering traumatic injuries, such as limb loss and severe burns.

According to the American Society of Transplantation, over the last 10 years, more than 90 patients around the world have undergone procedures using vascularized composite allotransplantation (VCA), a highly specialized field of transplantation in which multiple tissues, such as muscle, bone, nerve and skin, are transplanted as a functional unit (e.g. a hand, or face). Of those receiving VCAs, 46 patients received 66 hand transplants, and 17 patients received face transplants. Together, these procedures have produced promising outcomes, allowing patients to regain functions vital to performing daily life activities. Given early success rates of VCA procedures, the ultimate goal for the studies funded under the new grant will be to elevate VCA to the level of an established therapy, thereby expanding the available options for patients with combat-related injuries who are in need of these complex procedures.

“VCA affords tremendous opportunity for patients suffering from the most traumatic injuries to regain function and experience a dramatically improved quality of life,” said L. Scott Levin, MD, FACS, chair of the Orthopaedic Surgery and professor of Surgery (Division of Plastic Surgery) at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “However, these complex procedures require specialized skills from multi-disciplinary teams and intensive follow-up care for patients. With our grant, we hope to deliver new data-driven information that will fuel clinical practice guidelines for this emerging field of reconstructive surgery.”

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