Mayo Clinic researchers are part of a national consortium that will focus on developing innovative medical treatments for American war wounded. Mayo’s role will emphasise bone and peripheral nerve regeneration. Other organisations will focus on head and face trauma, burns, transplants and other conditions. Mayo’s principal investigator is Michael Yaszemski, M.D., Ph.D., an orthopedic surgeon and biomedical engineer.
The consortium, the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine (AFIRM), was created and funded by the Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, in conjunction with the Office of Naval Research and the National Institutes of Health. Overall funding for the first five years is $85 million. It’s not clear yet what Mayo’s funding will be.
"The opportunity to work together with a multidisciplinary, multi-institutional team that will address the unmet medical and surgical needs of our injured service members is a privilege, and we are proud that Mayo Clinic will be able to make a contribution to this effort," says Dr. Yaszemski, who also serves as a brigadier general in the U.S. Air Force Reserve. He has deployed to Iraq as deputy commander of the Air Force Theater Hospital in Balad, and has personally cared for patients. Other Mayo investigators are Allen Bishop, M.D., orthopedics; Alexander Shin, M.D., orthopedics; Robert Spinner, M.D., neurologic surgery; and Anthony Windebank, M.D., neurology.
AFIRM will use regenerative medicine to develop new products and therapies to repair battlefield injuries. This innovative approach employs cell therapy (including stem cells), tissue and biomaterials engineering, and transplants to enable the body to repair, replace, restore and regenerate damaged tissues and organs. It will accelerate the rate at which biomaterials and technologies are converted into therapies to restore lost tissue and function. These products and therapies also will serve civilian trauma and burn patients.
AFIRM is part of a national effort to address the health care challenges of severely injured veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq. "The novel regenerative medicine treatment options that will result from this collaborative work will also be available to help our civilian trauma patients here in the United States," says Dr. Yaszemski. The institute will be based on a highly integrated, open network of dedicated partners comprising 15 premier academic institutions and more than 20 leading companies.
"The identification of pertinent clinical needs, followed by a team approach to their solution, has always been the method that our department uses to advance our patients’ care," says Daniel Berry, M.D., head of Mayo’s orthopedic surgery department. "We support AFIRM’s multi-institutional effort to translate these improvements to our wounded service members and our civilian populations. Mayo Clinic is proud to be an integral part of the group."
The use of roadside bombs and other improvised devices in Iraq and Afghanistan has caused a marked increase in severe blast trauma, now responsible for 75 percent of all injuries, according to the Journal of Orthopaedic Trauma. Because of better body armor, quicker evacuation and advance medical care, many of those injured survive to face the challenge of overcoming severe limb, head, face and burn injuries that can take years to treat and result in lifelong impairment.
(Source: Mayo Clinic: 2008)