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Advances in Health and Medicine

Healing Through Regeneration


With research on tissue engineering, cellular therapies, and medical devices and artificial organs, Pitt scientists don’t just work on the cutting edge of medicine and bioengineering. They sharpen it.

William Wagner and his team study how specially formulated plastics and gels can help repair damaged tissue in the human body. Wagner also works to make bioengineered medical devices more compatible with the body so that blood flows smoothly and does not form dangerous clots. Wagner is the interim director of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

Stephen Badylak is deputy director of the McGowan Institute and Director of the Institute’s Preclinical Studies Center, where he works with the Department of Defense to treat to treat soldiers injured by in combat. Thanks to research led by Badylak, one soldier gained a 14 percent increase in muscle mass and a 50 percent increase in strength. Read more about Badylak at Newsweek's The Daily Beast and at MSNBC.

Johnny Huard (pictured) and Michael Chancellor pioneered a treatment for people with urinary incontinence. Using stem cells derived from patients’ own muscles, the doctors demonstrated the feasibility to strengthen patients’ bladder control. The technology has been licensed by Pitt and is now in clinical trials.

Eric Lagasse and his colleagues at Lagasse lab are studying methods for liver therapy and cancer treatment.  One specific project is focused on helping patients who have liver failure. In a preclinical study, Lagasse and his colleagues have shown that by injecting liver cells into lymph nodes, the lymph nodes function as “mini-livers.” 

Steven Little and his research team have demonstrated the feasibility of controlling the body's mechanisms for immune system regulation.  Our bodies (in a healthy state) constantly balance helpful inflammation (to combat pathogens and resolve injury) and helpful suppressive mechanisms (to deter destruction of tissue).  The Little labs have recently discovered ways to mimic the natural recruitment and employment processes for these key cell populations. This is the first step to therapies for diseases involving destructive inflammation (like arthritis and periodontal disease) as well as helping patients to accept a "foreign" transplanted tissue or organ.

In collaboration with the late Brack Hattler, William Federspiel started developing a respiratory assist catheter as an artificial lung to provide short-term respiratory support. This respiratory catheter bears Hattler’s name and continues to be developed toward future clinical use as an alternative to a ventilator. Another novel respiratory assist device developed by the Federspiel Medical Devices laboratory has been licensed by Pitt to Alung Technologies, founded by Hattler and Federspiel, and is now in clinical trials.

Harvey Borovetz and Peter Wearden are pioneering the development of pediatric heart pumps, called ventricular assist devices or VADs. These pumps serve as a bridge to a heart transplant or in some select cases as a bridge to help a sick heart heal.