McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine
faculty member J. Peter Rubin, MD (pictured), chief of the division of plastic and reconstructive surgery by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, director of the UPMC Life After Weight Loss Program, co-director of the Adipose Stem Cell Center, and co-director of the UPMC Aesthetic Plastic Surgery Center, is a Department of Defense principal investigator involved in pioneering clinical studies focused on 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 work by specially designed devices and instruments for harvesting the fat tissue and implanting it into regions of scarred tissue.
In his work, Dr. Rubin uses advanced technologies that may return wounded personnel to active duty, help restore their limb, muscular, and skin form or function, and assist them in reclaiming independence, dignity, and self-confidence in the tasks of daily living. One of 11 such military veterans, Jeremy Feldbusch recently underwent surgery where his own fat cells were removed, centrifuged to collect the most active cells, and injected into his facial injury sites using tiny tubes that can be as narrow as an intravenous needle. The procedure smoothed out the depressions that bordered a metal plate in his forehead and filled in some "potholes" near his right eye, as Mr. Feldbusch put it. Dr. Rubin’s team uses techniques developed by New York plastic surgeon Sydney Coleman, who has assisted on the surgeries in Pittsburgh.
"There is a very high incidence of facial injuries in military trauma today," Dr. Rubin said. "Because the body armor is so advanced, our troops are surviving blasts that in previous conflicts would have taken their lives. So the extremities and head and face are more exposed."
Fat stem cells, like those now growing in Mr. Feldbusch's face, have two complementary benefits, Dr. Rubin said. In some cases, they remain fat cells when they are put in the body, but can promote blood vessel growth and healing in other tissues, which has been shown in experimental work on heart disease patients. In other cases, they can morph into completely different kinds of tissue, for example, bone.
Illustration: McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (03/06/11)
McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine In the News: Grant Will Help Wounded Soldiers Recover from Facial Injuries
Bio: Dr. J. Peter Rubin