Advancing Medicine Today:
The McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine was established by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) to explore the vast potential of tissue engineering and other techniques for repairing damaged or diseased tissues and organs. The McGowan Institute serves as a single base of operations for the University’s leading scientists and clinical faculty members who are working to develop tissue engineering, cellular therapies, biosurgery, and artificial and biohybrid organs.
To investigate the complex process of inflammation and its relationship to regenerative medicine, the McGowan Institute established the Center for Inflammation and Regeneration Modeling (CIRM).
Why regenerative medicine?
The human body has an inherent ability to repair many of its own organs and tissues following damage from either disease or trauma. One goal of medicine has been to facilitate this intrinsic self-renewing ability by relieving damaged tissues of their functional burden and providing what was empirically perceived to be the ideal environment for tissue healing.
During the last century, newer concepts emerged, including replacement of diseased tissues with synthetic materials — such as heart valves and artificial joints — and, more recently, transplanted organs and engineered tissues. In many cases, the patient has suffered such significant and irreparable tissue damage that the only option to restore function is an implant or organ transplant.
We believe that a large number of patients with organ failure would be better served by modalities of treatment that embrace the historic principle of medicine: optimizing the regenerative potential intrinsic to many organ systems.
We study regenerative medicine to understand how we can facilitate the body’s ability to heal itself.
Why study inflammation?
To achieve this goal, we must understand and acknowledge the pivotal role of inflammation — first, in the initial damage process and then, in the various aspects of the healing response and tissue remodeling following injury.
Inflammation can be described as a process initiated by various insults to the organism and resulting in organ damage or dysfunction. Therapeutic approaches involving temporary organ support, which are designed to allow the injured organ to regain function, often themselves cause additional inflammation because of the technique or device used or the invasive procedure necessary to implement the therapy.
Inflammation involves both innate and adaptive immune elements, the endothelium, the complement and coagulation cascades, and the modulatory role of therapeutic compounds, devices, and strategies. Both acute and chronic inflammation are highly intricate processes that are induced by various insults to a tissue or organ, modulated by numerous cells and cell products, and affect different tissues in diverse ways.
Despite enormous progress in studying the human immune system, a holistic understanding of the immune/inflammatory response is not yet in grasp. The lack of a comprehensive framework to investigate and understand this complex phenomenon hinders the design of optimal preclinical and clinical studies aimed at developing effective therapies in regenerative medicine.
We study inflammation because this highly complex process is central to regeneration.