‘Regenerative Medicine’ Institute Eyes Limb, Tissue Regrowth for War Wounded

‘Regenerative Medicine’ Institute Eyes Limb, Tissue Regrowth for War Wounded
WASHINGTON -- In April 2003, in Baghdad, Army Specialist Garth Stewart stepped on a land mine. The blast blew off half his left leg. The next thing he knew, he was in a military hospital being prepped for the eventual fitting of a prosthesis.

Today, Stewart is a poster boy for the Army's latest generation of "intelligent" robotic limbs that move and flex like real limbs -- and adapt themselves to a wearer's unique gait. Prostheses have come a long way since the wooden peg leg, but in the future they might not be necessary at all. One military medical institute is working to grow new body parts from human and animal "seed" tissue.

The Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine -- an alliance of the military services, the Veterans Administration, the National Institutes of Health and around 250 doctors and researchers at 30 universities and hospitals -- formed in early 2007 with $50 million a year in government and private funding. Lt. Gen. Eric Schoomaker, the Army's top doctor, formally inaugurated the Institute at a Pentagon event on April 17.

This summer the institute will launch its first research programs, aiming to "put people back together" after nearly catastrophic injuries, according to Army Col. Robert Vandre, the Army's senior official for "combat casualty care research."

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