The Carnegie Science Center (CSC) established the Awards for Excellence program in 1997 to recognize and promote outstanding science and technology achievements in Western Pennsylvania. The Carnegie Science Awards have honored the accomplishments of more than 400 committed individuals and organizations that have improved lives through their contributions in science and technology.
The 20th Annual Carnegie Science Awards celebration will be held on May 6, 2016, at Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland during which time McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine affiliated faculty members Prashant Kumta, PhD, and Rocky Tuan, PhD, will be honored for their tremendous work and its impact on the vitality in the region.
Dr. Prashant Kumta will receive the Advanced Materials Award which recognizes accomplishments in materials science that create new materials or properties leading to significant business, economic, or societal benefits for the region.
Dr. Kumta holds the Edward R. Weidlein chair professor at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering and School of Dental Medicine and is a professor in the Departments of Bioengineering, Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, and Department of Oral Biology. He is also Engineering Director of the Center for Craniofacial Regeneration and the Founding Director of the Center for Complex Engineered Multifunctional Materials, both at the University of Pittsburgh. During his career, Dr. Kumta has made pioneering achievements in advanced materials AND in advanced manufacturing which have led to a new platform technology for significantly improving methods to repair severely damaged bone.
Dr. Kumta and his colleagues have developed a family of biodegradable materials to fix broken bones. While simple fractures are repaired with a simple plaster cast, complicated fractures require metal screws, pins, rods, or plates to hold the bone in place until the fractures heal. Currently, surgeons fix complex fractures arising from battlefield wound or traffic accident injuries using synthetic, inert materials such as titanium, stainless steel, or nondegradable polymer. The patient is forced to live with the hardware for life. It can be removed following bone healing, but that operation might cause other medical problems. The new advances described here offer the surgeon the opportunity to use biocompatible and biodegradable “fixation devices” providing the initial structural support for bone healing. At the same time, the novel magnesium/iron alloys developed by Dr. Kumta resorb into the body so that after bone healing, the plates and screws are not “lingering” in the body. The second component of this innovative solution is an injectable “bone putty” that can be injected between bone fragments serving to significantly enhance the speed and the quality of the bone healing process. Finally, through the use of a unique binder‐jet adaptive manufacturing process, these bone support components can be manufactured to closely replicate and restore the original boney structures of patients.
There are several components to the platform technology invented by Dr. Kumta and his colleagues. The first component is a family of degradable magnesium/iron alloys offering not only structural attributes of currently used stainless steel or titanium fixation devices, but also unique characteristics of resorption into the body over a prescribed period of time, leaving no long‐term residual effects of the fixation devices remaining in the body. The second component is a moldable or injectable calcium phosphate putty serving as a scaffold or starting point to “grow” new bone. In traditional tissue engineering, the scaffold facilitates formation of new soft tissue. In this case, bone tissue engineering is a revolutionary approach to repair and restore damaged bone. The bone putty can be used in various clinical settings wherein the putty is injected into the void space between bone fragments or can be manufactured by a binder‐jet adaptive manufacturing process into a geometric shape mimicking the bone defect to be
repaired/replaced. Clinical applications of these different approaches can be a severely fractured femur requiring fixation device utilization combined with injection of the bone putty into the void spaces between the bone fragments serving as a “bridge” in the restoration of complete bone. Another scenario is where a portion of the skull is damaged or missing in which case, a calcium phosphate putty scaffold is manufactured using binder‐jet adaptive manufacturing in the shape of the section of the skull to be replaced. Preclinical trials have verified these concepts.
The regional impact of Dr. Kumta’s work is already noteworthy. On the “science‐side,” his pioneering work is internationally recognized, and the region has been identified for novel and innovative work in regenerative medicine‐based bone repair. On the “commercial‐side” the “bone putty” technology has been licensed to the Pittsburgh start‐up Formabone, Inc. that is pursuing FDA approval for the clinical use of the bone putty. Further, negotiations are underway on the licensing of the biodegradable metallic alloy systems. The extension of adaptive manufacturing to biological systems further strengthens the reputation of the region in adaptive manufacturing.
The impact of this platform technology nation‐wide has been significant. The Department of Defense has aggressively supported the development of these systems to aid rehabilitation of wounded warriors. Once FDA approvals for the use of bone putty and the resorbable metals are received, we anticipate seeing widespread clinical use in orthopedic and musculoskeletal settings based on the technology and the products that come from Pittsburgh. The total medical costs associated with all musculoskeletal conditions amount to nearly $215 billion/year projected to increase further due to aging of the US population. Bone fracture injuries are common worldwide occurrence with ~6 million/year in the U.S. alone, accounting for ~10 million annual hospital visits. The platform technology developed by Dr. Kumta could significantly improve the speed and the quality of the recovery.
The work by Dr. Kumta and his colleagues is revolutionary, offering the prospect of a better outcome for the patient. Implantation of the currently used state‐of‐the‐art biocompatible but inert screw or plate or joint that remains for the life of the patient leaves the patient susceptible to severe side effects. These include arthritis, debris formation, and accumulation of chemicals in various organs running the risk of cancer in patients. On the other hand, using the revolutionary technology of Dr. Kumta, doctors will be able to use degradable metals and ceramic putties that utilize the body’s own regenerative ability to provide a more effective method to heal the injury with no deleterious side effects. There are several unique features of this overall bone repair system: Both the novel magnesium/iron alloys and the calcium phosphate putty developed by Dr. Kumta are biocompatible and are resorbable by the body. Both provide suitable mechanical strengths matching the human bone to permit full regrowth and restoration of the damaged bone allowing no room for any unwanted secondary fractures. The putty is injectable or can be manufactured in desired shapes and sizes to match the patient needs by the binder-jet adaptive manufacturing methods. Both sub‐systems can be produced in any desired configuration and macro scale structure by additive manufacturing. There are multiple future applications such as dental restoration and other conditions involving bone loss due to traumatic battlefield or civilian injuries and debilitating diseases such as osteoporosis and bone cancer.
Dr. Rocky Tuan will receive the Life Sciences Award which recognizes and honors scientific advances in new and innovative biomedical and life sciences endeavors.
Dr. Tuan is the director, Center for Cellular and Molecular Engineering, the Arthur J. Rooney, Sr. professor and executive vice chair, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, the associate director, McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the director, Center for Military Medicine Research, and a professor in the Departments of Bioengineering and Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Tuan directs a multidisciplinary research program, which focuses on orthopaedic research as a study of the biological activities that are important for the development, growth, function, and health of musculoskeletal tissues, and the utilization of this knowledge to develop technologies that will regenerate and/or restore function to diseased and damaged skeletal tissues. Ongoing research projects are directed towards multiple aspects of skeletal and related biology, including skeletal development, stem cells, growth factor signaling, bone-biomaterial interaction, extracellular matrix and cell-matrix interaction, nanotechnology, biomaterials, 3D printing, mechanobiology, regenerative medicine, and tissue engineering, utilizing an integrated experimental approach combining contemporary technologies of biochemistry, cell and molecular biology, embryology and development, cellular imaging, and engineering. He is internationally recognized as for his pioneering studies into the cause and the treatment of osteoarthritis. His studies have shown the feasibility of using 3D microphysiological systems for testing drug toxicity and efficacy.
For more than 30 years, Dr. Tuan has studied the workings of the musculoskeletal system and its diseases, including cartilage development and repair, cell signaling and matrix biochemistry, stem cell biology, nanotechnology, and other orthopaedic topics. He is well known for his innovative research on the development, growth, and function of the musculoskeletal system. He has authored more than 400 refereed publications.
He has done pioneering work on adult stem cells and cell-based tissue engineering, in particular applications in skeletal tissue engineering and repair. His research on cartilage has included cellular signaling in developmental chondrogenesis and the utilization of adult stem cells in tissue engineering. Dr. Tuan has also pioneered the development of molecular diagnostic technologies for orthopaedic infections, an achievement that has significant impact in the clinical setting. In 2004, he received the prestigious Marshal Urist Award for Excellence in Tissue Regeneration Research from the Orthopedic Research Society.
Dr. Tuan has placed special emphasis on building strong basic science foundations for the treatment of injuries and diseases of the musculoskeletal system, and utilizing nanotechnology and mechanobiological principles in combination with bioreactor technology for functional skeletal tissue engineering and regeneration. Since joining the University of Pittsburgh, Dr. Tuan has established a national and international center of excellence built on research innovation, a strong education program, and an entrepreneurial culture that fosters local and regional collaborations among the academic, industrial, and business communities. Dr. Tuan has received multiple awards for his teaching and mentoring skills, including the Outstanding Mentor Award, National Institutes of Health, and on two occasions the Special Recognition Award, National Institutes of Health Undergraduate Scholars Program. In 2014, he was named a Distinguished University Professor by University Chancellor Mark Nordenberg.
Congratulations, Drs. Kumta and Tuan!
Illustration: Carnegie Science Center.