Crainofacial Fellowship Research Opportunities

While at least one clinical research project leading to presentation and publication is expected during the fellowship year, significant basic and applied basic science research opportunities are available and highly encouraged. For those interested, research experience can be obtained in one of three nationally known laboratories.

The Plastic Surgery Research Laboratories at the University of Pittsburgh

The Plastic Surgery Adipose Stem Cell Research Laboratory

This stem cell research laboratory is directed by Kacey G. Marra, PhD, Associate Professor of Plastic Surgery and Bioengineering and Faculty of McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine and J Peter Rubin, MD, Professor of Plastic Surgery, Chairman Department of Plastic Surgery. This laboratory conducts scientific investigation in multiple interdisciplinary areas. The scope of projects revolves around the two future avenues of tissue reconstruction: transplantation and tissue engineering. Modalities are investigated to manipulate the immune system in order to achieve transplantation of composite tissue allografts. Novel biomaterials are being designed for skin, bone, and nerve regeneration, with a strong focus on polymeric materials, both native and synthetic. This laboratory isolates preadipocytes from human adipose tissue, and is exploring applications of these adult stem cells in soft tissue reconstruction. Of recent interest is the differentiation of preadipocytes into adipocytes, neural progenitor cells, and osteoblasts for tissue engineering applications.

Pediatric Craniofacial Biology Laboratory

This biology laboratory is directed by Greg Cooper PhD, Associate Professor of Plastic Surgery and Joseph E. Losee, MD, Professor of Plastic Surgery, Vice Chairman Department of Plastic Surgery. The Experimental Animal Surgery Laboratory and the Posvar Hall Animal Care Facility is directed by Mark P. Mooney, PhD, Professor in the Departments of Oral Medicine and Pathology, Anthropology, Plastic Surgery, and Orthodontics. Dr. Mooney and Dr. Cooper are craniofacial biologists who study craniofacial growth and development as well as wound healing following surgical manipulation and device implantation - using comparative animal models. Their interests include the etiopathogenesis of craniofacial anomalies. Ongoing projects in this laboratory involve the development of cytokine and gene therapies to rescue craniosynostotic sutures and prevent postoperative resynostosis in a congenital rabbit model of craniosynostosis; the use of guided tissue regeneration with growth factors and osteogenic cells to prevent postoperative fibrous nonunions in craniofacial surgery; and, the facilitation of osseous wound healing in critical sized craniofacial defects using tissue engineered bone scaffolds.

The Plastic Surgery Heterotopic Ossification and Bone Engineering Laboratory

This plastic surgery laboratory is directed by Anand Kumar MD, Assistant Professor of Plastic Surgery. The Plastic Surgery HO/Bone Engineering Laboratory is a fully quipped state of the art molecular biology lab and histology/histomorphology lab. Dr. Kumar studies muscle derived progenitor cells in murine, rabbit, and human cell models and the etiopathogenesis of heterotopic ossification and unlocking the potential of muscle derived cells as a source of therapeutic bone generation. The Plastic Surgery Foundation has recognized this work and funded study of this novel source of cellular therapy. Ongoing projects include the study of mechanotransduction and inflammation as a source of osteogenic differentiation seen in combat related heterotopic ossification.