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Grants We Funded

Grant applicants for the 2021 cycle requested a total of over $3.3 million dollars. The PSF Study Section subcommittees of Basic & Translational Research and Clinical Research evaluated 106 grant applications on the following topics:

The PSF awarded research grants totaling more than $755,000 to support 25 plastic surgery research proposals.

ASPS/PSF leadership is committed to continuing to provide high levels of investigator-initiated research support to ensure that plastic surgeons have the needed research resources to be pioneers and innovators in advancing the practice of medicine.

Research Abstracts

Search The PSF database to have easy access to full-text grant abstracts from past PSF-funded research projects 2003 to present. All abstracts are the work of the Principal Investigators and were retrieved from their PSF grant applications. Several different filters may be applied to locate abstracts specific to a particular focus area or PSF funding mechanism.

Modulating Immunotherapy in Composite Tissue Allotransplantation

Principal Investigator
Galen Wachtman MD


University of Pittsburgh

Funding Mechanism
Research Fellowship

Focus Area
Composite Tissue Allotransplantation, Hand or Upper Extremity

Upper extremity amputations occur with a relatively high frequency, are disabling, debilitating, and have a high cost to the health care system. One solution to this difficult problem is composite tissue allotransplantation (CTA). Composite tissue allografts (hand transplants) have been performed in multiple centers worldwide. Allograft survival is high, with functional outcomes superior to prosthetic devices. Despite this success, composite tissue transplantation has not reached widespread clinical use because recipients require lifelong high-dose multi-drug immunosuppression to prevent graft rejection. These regimens carry a high risk for metabolic, infectious, and neoplastic side effects that have limited the widespread adoption of CTA.

In light of these challenges, we propose a model of targeted immunomodulation based on experience from solid organ transplantation performed with the "Pittsburgh Protocol". This protocol utilizes non-ablative induction with alemtuzumab, followed by donor bone marrow cell infusion and low-dose immunosuppression using a single drug, tacrolimus. In human solid organ transplant recipients treated with this protocol, immunosuppression was reduced to minimal levels or even withdrawn completely.
To translate this novel concept to composite tissue transplantation, our laboratory has developed a preclinical model of heterotopic hindlimb transplantation in Yucatan miniature swine. We were able to successfully translate the Pittsburgh Protocol to this preclinical model, but have not had complete success with long term tolerance; muscle and bone are accepted indefinitely, but skin eventually rejects.

In an effort to further minimize systemic immunosuppression and maximize allograft survival we propose to use a novel technique, costimulatory blockade with custom-designed fusion proteins to achieve operational tolerance. The goal of this proposal will be to demonstrate tolerance in a preclinical model of composite tissue allotransplantation.

Dr. Wachtman received his undergraduate education at the Pennsylvania State University and his medical degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. After completion of his medical school training, he began his integrated residency at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. During his general surgery training, he was awarded membership in the Alpha Omega Alpha honor society, and received the Charles L. Moore Award for resident teaching at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Department of Surgery. Dr. Wachtman will begin his 2009 PSEF Research Fellowship under the direction of W. P. Andrew Lee, MD, Professor of Surgery and Chief, Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. Research will take place in the Composite Tissue Allograft laboratory in the Thomas E. Starzl Transplant Institute at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. His work will center around modulation of immunotherapy in a miniature swine heterotopic hindlimb composite tissue transplantation model. Specifically, the use of novel CTLA-4/Ig fusion proteins and tacrolimus monotherapy will be explored to prolong allograft survival.