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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 Macrophage Dynamics to Improve Autologous Fat Grafting Outcomes

Principal Investigator
Lauren Kokai PhD


University of Pittsburgh

Funding Mechanism
National Endowment for Plastic Surgery Grant

Focus Area
Fat Grafting

Poor and variable retention outcomes remain a significant barrier to autologous fat grafting procedures. Amongst seemingly similar patients, using identical harvesting procedures, clinicians have variable results. Literature suggests that macrophage polarization within fat grafts toward a regenerative M2 phenotype instead of an inflammatory M1 phenotype impacts long term graft survival. Inherent differences across individuals in cytokine production and M2 macrophage differentiation may explain variability in graft survival. Our long term goal is to identify and measure inflammatory biomarkers within adipose tissue that predict patient outcomes prior to grafting. This would provide a predictive test for fat graft healing for individual patients, and also represents a target for intervention to improve healing. Our preliminary data strongly suggest that an early maturation of anti-inflammatory M2 macrophages improves long term graft viability and increases volume retention outcomes. The primary purpose of this project is to correlate adipokine/cytokine cascades in human lipoaspirate with differentiation of regenerative M2 macrophages, and test the effect of an inhibitor of M1 activation and M2 polarization during fat graft healing. Our specific aims include 1) Co-culture lipoaspirate from human donors with autologous lymphocytes under hypoxic conditions to correlate adipokine/cytokine cascades with M2 macrophage differentiation. 2) Evaluate Calcitriol, an inhibitor of M1 activation and promotor of M2 polarization, on long term in vivo fat graft retention. Calcitriol is the active form of vitamin D and is currently used to treat hypocalcaemia, however published studies suggest that Calcitriol has other noncalcemic actions including M2 macrophage polarization. We intend to measure fat graft retention in an autologous animal model with increasing doses of oral Calcitriol to determine if fat grafting may be a novel therapeutic application. Ultimately this project will lead to improved understanding of the mechanisms underlying fat graft inflammation and identify inherent fat properties promoting M2 macrophage differentiation. Furthermore, this study will evaluate an already FDA approved drug, Calcitriol, to improve clinical fat grafting outcomes for patients found to have low M2 macrophage potential. The findings from this study may support a rapid pathway to clinical investigation with an FDA approved agent that can improve fat grafting outcomes.

Dr. Kokai is a research instructor in the Department of Plastic Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh and a member of the Adipose Stem Cell Center. She earned her PhD from the University of Pittsburgh in 2009 from the Department of Bioengineering and completed a dissertation on controlled drug delivery systems for nerve engineering. Dr. Kokai also has experience in designing and performing in vivo analysis of biomaterials and scaffolds for soft tissue engineering while working for a leading international pharmaceutical company, Allergan Medical in Santa Barbara, CA. While at Allergan, Dr. Kokai collaborated with marketing and clinical teams to conduct user interviews and expert panel product reviews to develop tissue engineered products for replacing lost adipose tissue. Now at the University of Pittsburgh, she currently manages multiple industry collaborations with aesthetic and reconstructive goals in soft tissue regeneration. In total, Dr. Kokai has over 12 years’ research experience with adipose tissue and adipose cell culture as well as over 8 years’ experience conducting small animal studies in both academic and industry settings. She is highly motivated and eager to generate high impact data which advances fat grafting science, especially in the area of breast reconstruction.