van Aalst Awarded Two Grants

October 02, 2012 -- Dr John van Aalst, Associate Professor and Director of Pediatric and Craniofacial Plastic Surgery, has been awarded two grants.

van Aalst Awarded Two Grants click to enlarge John van Aalst, MD

A four-year, $539,00 grant was recently awarded to John van Aalst, MD, who will study surgically-created bone defects in juvenile pigs and treatment with stem cells from the pig's own umbilical cord. Congenital or acquired absence of craniofacial bone in humans results in profound distortions of facial features and major functional disabilities, which can cause immense hurdles to productive integration into society. The immediate goal of this research is to develop a large animal alveolar cleft model to test novel cell-based treatment for early correction of craniofacial bone defects. The long-term goal is to be able to translate these findings to children using human cells.

A second grant, for $50,000, from the Plastic Surgery Foundation is entitled "Implanted Bioreactor to Direct Development of Engineered Cartilage." It will be used to create a bioreactor which will allow a trackable, non-destructive assessment of engineered tissue in vivo. In sum, this project will be part of a larger vision of making significant advances in the fields of tissue engineering, bioreactor construction, and the generation of clinically useful flexible cartilage initially in small animals but eventually transitioning to large animal models. This work will teach us how to use an organism's own regulatory system and yet be able to take the best of "in vitro" capacity to isolate single parameters for study.

As the research and philanthropic arm of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the PSF's mission is to support research and public service activities of plastic surgeons. The PSF accomplishes its mission by providing invaluable support to the research of plastic surgery sciences through a variety of grant programs and also to surgeons who volunteer abroad to help the impoverished.

- Arica Hay, UNC Division of Plastic Surgery