This year’s Stepping Strong Innovator Awards finalists are addressing complex challenges related to trauma research. Each of the three finalists hopes to receive the $100,000 Stepping Strong Innovator Awards, which will be awarded at Discover Brigham on Oct. 7. Read about their work below, and vote for your choice.
Bohdan Pomahac, MD, Division of Plastic Surgery
What is your research project about?
Following traumatic amputation, detached extremities can only survive for four to six hours. We have developed a portable machine that may be able to keep detached limbs—arms, legs, hands and feet—alive for half a day, and possibly even longer.
The machine will also allow us to test how to:
- Extend the time available for transportation of donated extremities for transplantation
- Manipulate detached extremities prior to replantation—in other words, make the detached extremities “better” before reattaching them on the body
- Treat patients who suffer certain types of cancer of the extremities with targeted high doses of chemotherapy, without affecting the rest of their body
What is a compelling aspect of your research project?
Think about all of the brave warriors who lost their limbs in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our device could provide sustainment of severed limbs by supplying them with oxygen and important nutrients. It could keep these body parts alive outside of the body for more than three times longer than what is currently possible. This extended time would allow for the transfer of wounded warriors and their limbs from the battlefield to hospitals in the U.S. or Europe, where surgeons could then attempt reattachment. We hope our device will buy precious time, allowing us to provide the best possible care to those who experience a traumatic injury.
How will your research project benefit future patients who suffer from trauma-related injuries?
More than 1 million Americans are living with missing limbs, many of them due to traumatic amputation. Likewise, more than 1,200 of our brave servicemen and servicewomen lost one or more limbs in recent wars. Our machine will enable the saving of amputated extremities for up to three times longer than what is currently possible. Moreover, it will provide amputees with a better chance of receiving an extremity transplant years after their initial trauma by facilitating the transportation of donated limbs over longer distances and greater time.
The machine can also treat detached limbs with drugs that cannot be introduced into the entire body’s circulation for safety or other reasons. While the limb is attached to the machine, drugs and compounds can be introduced to treat various conditions, such as cancer or infections.
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