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RCCC Success Stories

Composite Tissue (Face and Limb) Transplant Technologies 


The Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine supports technologies to regenerate or rebuild tissues like bone, cartilage, muscle, tendon and skin. But sometimes, the best and most direct way to reconstruct very extensive wounds to the face or hands is to transplant tissue from a donor. Dr. Maria Siemionow, from the Cleveland Clinic, is an RCCC AFIRM-funded researcher who is working to make transplant of face and hands safer and more accessible for wounded service men and women who need this kind of reconstruction. 




In December 2008, Dr. Siemionow completed the first face transplant. Her patient, a civilian named Connie Culp, had been injured by a shotgun blast that destroyed her entire mid-face. Ms. Culp received new skin, nose, cheekbones, hard palate and teeth from a donor. The transplant gave Connie back her life. You can learn more about Connie’s story here:  www.clevelandclinic.org/face



Today, Dr. Siemionow and the rest of her team are evaluating ways to complete future transplants of the face and hands, without the need for long-term suppression of the recipient’s immune system. This technology holds tremendous promise for civilian and military patients who otherwise would face dozens of surgeries and lifetime deficits from their traumatic surgeries.