The Plastic Surgery Foundation
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Grants We Funded

Grant applicants for the 2023 cycle requested a total of nearly $4 million dollars. The PSF Study Section Subcommittees of Basic & Translational Research and Clinical Research evaluated nearly 140 grant applications on the following topics:

The PSF awarded research grants totaling over $1 million dollars to support nearly 30 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.

Immune Cell Specific Therapy to Prevent Extremity Heterotopic Ossification

Principal Investigator
David Stepien MD, PhD


The Regents of the University of Michigan

Funding Mechanism
Research Fellowship

Focus Area
General Reconstructive, Wounds / Scar

Heterotopic ossification (HO) is a significant clinical complication in reconstructive surgery patients which impairs wound healing and return to mobility. HO is a commonly encountered sequela of lower extremity trauma, pressure ulcers, and burns and is frequently managed by plastic surgeons. Currently surgical excision is the only available therapy but this is often complicated by a notoriously high (up to 30%) recurrence rate. Clinical studies have demonstrated a causative role of acute inflammation in the development and propagation of HO. Our previous work in the established burn tenotomy animal model of HO demonstrated a critical role for macrophage and neutrophil mediated inflammation in HO formation. In the studies proposed here, we intend to investigate how the cytokine TGF-B1 released by macrophages at the site of injury induces ectopic bone formation through its interaction with mesenchymal stem cells. We have developed a strain of knockout mice that allow us to turn on or off TGF-B1 expression at the genetic level to demonstrate the role of TGFb1 signaling in HO formation. With this interaction characterized, we will inhibit TGF-B1 production by macrophages using small inhibiting RNAs against TGF-B1 delivered by nanoparticles that specifically target macrophages as potential therapeutic strategies. HO formation will be measured with microCT scans and histological analysis. We will also trial an FDA approved medication used in sarcoma therapy, trabectedin, that directly depletes macrophages for prevention of HO formation. This work has the potential to generate treatments for HO that can be translated into human patients for the treatment and prevention of HO after lower extremity injuries. Additional Information

I was born and raised near Ann Arbor, Michigan surrounded by the University of Michigan its health system. I then moved to East Lansing, Michigan where I attended Michigan State University and studied Microbiology and Molecular Genetics for my Bachelor and Master of Science degrees. There I was trained in laboratory techniques of immunology, molecular biology, and electron microscopy as I worked in the protein interactions lab of Dennis Arvidson, PhD. From Michigan State I was accepted into the Boston University School of Medicine Combine MD-PhD program. I spent my first two years in the MD program’s pre-clinical curriculum all the while rotating in labs in preparation for my PhD studies. I selected Daniel Remick’s trauma immunology lab in our department of Pathology to complete my PhD studies. My project investigated the effect of brain injury on the peripheral immune system and the role of nerve signaling on the immune response. After I successfully defended my doctoral thesis, I returned to the clinical years of medical school. During my surgery rotations I found myself drawn to Plastic and Reconstructive surgery. I ultimately matched into the integrated Plastic Surgery residency program at the University of Michigan where I am currently in my third post graduate year and preparing to enter the Levi lab investigating the role of macrophages in the formation of heterotopic ossification.