Wake Forest University restores the seriously wounded

February 27, 2014 

America’s heroic warriors today survive injuries that in previous wars would have killed them. But their lives spared, the wounded face challenges with lost limbs and disfigurement that will affect them for the rest of their lives. Many fall into despair. A new set of problems is created.

Now Wake Forest University, through its medical school, will lead a five-year, $75 million federally funded effort with other institutions to find ways to ease those wounds. It is called regenerative medicine, with doctors and scientists trying to develop better cell therapies, ultimately hoping that arms and legs rendered useless can regain some function, that cells can be regenerated to help reconstruction after facial and skull injuries.

The project might also find ways to help diminish the chances of rejection of transplants of the face and hands.

And thanks to these warriors and their sacrifices, patients with traumatic injuries not related to military service can be helped as well.

What a glorious time it would be if those forever scarred by battle – men and women who made a sacrifice to save others, to preserve freedom, to stand in duty in their country’s uniforms – could find some return of their appearance and the functions lost to a severed limb.

The armed forces have long worked on these issues, but this is yet another example of the importance of government investment in private research. Wake Forest is among the places with expertise in the field, and its physicians and researchers have the laboratory resources to take this research to a higher level.

There were over 50,000 U.S. service members injured in recent wars, and over 1,500 of them lost limbs or part of a limb. The debt owed them by their country cannot begin to be repaid, except in efforts that make those injuries easier to cope with. It should be a point of pride in North Carolina, a state rich in military history and presence, that such an effort is led from here.

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