The Plastic Surgery Foundation
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Grants We Funded

In 2019, The Plastic Surgery Foundation (The PSF) awarded 33 investigator-initiated projects and allocated $891,274 to support the newest, clinically relevant research in plastic surgery.

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons/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.

Transfected Adipose Stem Cells for Peripheral Nerve Repair

Principal Investigator
Wesley Sivak MD, Phd


University of Pittsburgh

Funding Mechanism
Pilot Research Grant

Focus Area
Peripheral Nerve, Tissue Engineering

Maximizing outcomes in patients experiencing peripheral nerve injury relies within optimizing the speed, quality, and quantity of nerve regeneration. When severed, injured nerves must be able to regenerate and reconnect to the structures they previously controlled within 12-18 months before sensation and motion are lost. Previous studies have identified biodegradable conduits able to direct regeneration across a rat sciatic nerve model; improved responses have been obtained when conduits are loaded with nerve-growth promoting factors. This study seeks to further boost nerve regeneration by manipulating inhibitory signals at the site of peripheral nerve repair. Treatments with chondroitinase, an enzyme that degrades chondroitin-sulfate proteoglycans, have shown promise in treating spinal cord injury and improving outcomes in limb transplantation. Application of this strategy has been limited due to the stability of chondroitinase. Work by our collaborators has identified and patented a mutant variant of chondroitinase suitable for transfection and expression in eukaryotic cells. The goal in this study is to incorporate mutant chondroitinase into adipose derived stem cells and deliver them from conduits to damaged peripheral nerves. We anticipate that continuous, long-term treatment of the growing nerve with chondroitinase, in addition to supplying key growth factors released from conduits, will result in further improvement of limb function following traumatic peripheral nerve injury. This study will incorporate a promising therapeutic compound into a novel cell-based therapy directed toward improving peripheral nerve repair and regeneration. Results from this study have the potential to boost functional outcomes and enhance quality of life for patients following devastating peripheral nerve injuries. Future work should have application to the areas of brachial plexus reconstruction, facial nerve reanimation, and reconstructive transplantation.

Dr. Sivak is currently working toward completion of the integrated Plastic Surgery Program at the University of Pittsburgh. Prior to matriculating into the MD/PhD program at the University of Pittsburgh in 2000, he worked as a contractor developing advanced biomaterials in the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, OH. As a graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh, Dr. Sivak’s graduate studies focused on the design and synthesis of biocompatible/biodegradable polyurethane-urea materials for use in controlled-release drug delivery applications. Dr. Sivak began his plastic surgery training at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in 2008. His experiences in residency have sparked an interest in peripheral nerve repair, and early in his training he began working in the Plastic Surgery Research Lab under the direction of Drs. Rubin and Marra; he continues this work today now funded by The Plastic Surgery Foundation.