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Explorations in Science and Technology

Healing Soldiers’ Wounds & Battle Scars


A soldier injured by an explosive device in Afghanistan lost a significant portion of leg muscle, compromising his strength and range of motion. Until Pitt doctors helped him regrow it.

At Pitt’s McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, directed by Stephen Badylak, doctors are helping soldiers recover from battlefield trauma, including burns and blast injuries. Treatments include wound healing, craniofacial reconstruction, and limb regeneration. Read an interview with Badylak.

Professor Charles Sfeir conducts research focusing on the role of extracellular matrix in tissue engineering and biomineralization—the “scaffolding” scientists use to help wounds heal. He also studies the use of bioceramic nanoparticles in non-viral DNA gene delivery.

The Bioreactor Group, led by Professor Joerg Gerlach, has developed a new therapy for skin burn that involves a cell-spraying device, dubbed the “skin gun.” The procedure has been used successfully to regrow skin over burned ears and faces in a matter of days.

Professor J. Peter Rubin treats facial trauma, leading a team of specialists with complementary expertise as they help to rebuild soldiers’ injured faces. One of his team members, professor Kacey Marra, also studies synthesis of blood vessels.