CINCINNATI—A University of Cincinnati (UC) professor’s pre-clinical research focused on restoring pigmentation in skin grafts for severe burns has been renewed through the second funding cycle of the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine (AFIRM) program.
UC will be one of 47 performance sites in the second cycle (called AFIRM-II), which is a five-year, $75 million, federally-funded program.
The mission of AFIRM-II is to accelerate regenerative solutions for the treatment of battlefield injuries” by the use of regenerative medicine, or the science of the body’s natural processes to restore damaged tissue to its uninjured condition without scar. Successful projects will develop novel therapies for clinical trials on wounded warriors in the military, and for patients in the civilian population. AFIRM-II involves basic and clinical research across both academic institutions and industry partners.
UC professor of surgery research, Steven Boyce, PhD, has studied the design and engineering of skin grafts for life-threatening burn injuries for more than two decades.
Through AFIRM-II, UC will receive $1.18 million over three years for Boyce to continue studies of how to restore and regulate pigmentation in engineered grafts. Boyce’s labs are based at Shriners’ Hospital for Children–Cincinnati.
"The goal of the project at UC is to restore uniform, natural skin color to the engineered skin grafts, and to match as closely as possible the same color as the uninjured skin,” he says.
To accomplish this, Boyce works with melanocytes, the specialized skin cells that produce the pigment melanin. After isolating a small population of melanocytes from a skin biopsy,
Boyce’s team selectively propagates the melanocytes in parallel with other skin cells grown from the tissue sample, including the keratinocyte cells from the skin’s epidermal layer and the dermal fibroblasts from the inner skin, or dermis. Once propagated, the pigment cells are combined with the other skin cells on a degradable biopolymer fabric to form skin grafts that are transplanted to deep skin wounds.
Other AFIRM-II researchers will study clinical therapies for restoring function to severely traumatized limbs, reconstruction of facial and skull injuries, regeneration of genito-urinary organs, and treatments to prevent rejection of hand and face transplants.
The AFIRM-II consortium will be led by the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine (Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center).
Consortium researchers will work with health professionals at the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to develop new treatments. Government sponsors of AFIRM are the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, the Office of Naval Research, the Air Force Medical Service, the Office of Research and Development–Department of Veterans Affairs, the National Institutes of Health and the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs.