Pittsburgh Region Middle School Students Participate in Hands-on Tissue Engineering Summer Camp

Wednesday, July 9, 2008 General News
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PITTSBURGH, July 8 Have you ever wondered why a starfishcan completely grow a new arm, but humans cannot? Or, how about the fact thata salamander can regenerate a severed leg, but human beings have to rely onman-made, prosthetic limbs? Many of us have asked the same questions for along time and, in fact, many cutting-edge, "tissue engineering" researchersare beginning to find the answers. What's even more exciting is that much ofthis ground-breaking work is being done in our own backyard, with thePittsburgh region recognized as a world-class leader in tissue engineering andregenerative medicine.

Tissue Engineering (TE) and Regenerative Medicine are revolutionarytechnologies that offer incredible hope to people with compromised tissuefunction. The challenge for is to help humans tap into their innate ability toregenerate damaged, diseased or compromised body parts -- Much like theStarfish and salamander! This requires a team approach and the coordinatedefforts of biologists, chemists, physicists, engineers, computer specialistsand physicians. For one week this summer, 48 middle school students acrossthe Pittsburgh region will become a member of a tissue engineering team asthey seek answers to the mystery of regeneration in the starfish andsalamander and learn how tissue engineering might help humans be able to moreeasily accomplish what the starfish and salamander readily can.

The Pittsburgh Tissue Engineering Initiative (PTEI) has been long viewedas a leader in creating awareness and facilitating educational enrichmentactivities for professionals, educators, elementary and secondary students,college students, and post doctoral candidates. This summer, PTEI isproviding two separate, one-week, hands-on tissue engineering summer campsduring the weeks of July 7th to July 11th and again on July 14th to July 18thwith camp headquarters at the University of Pittsburgh Center forBiotechnology and Bioengineering, located off Second Avenue at 300 TechnologyDrive, Pittsburgh.

Middle school campers will experience becoming members of a medical teamdedicated to a difficult task and challenge related to sports injury. A localstar athlete has a seriously damaged keen joint and traditional medicalattempts at repair have been unable to restore him to peak performance. Thechallenge for the tissue engineering camper teams will be to, "boldly go whereno surgeon has gone before as they seek to develop strategies and utilizetechnologies that will enable them to fabricate NEW tissue to replace theathlete's damaged knee joint. What technologies might be used? Whatexperimental strategies can you imagine? What ethical considerations areraised by this scientific breakthrough? Through work with team members at campheadquarters and also at local tissue engineering laboratories and facilities,middle school campers will explore these questions and more.

Joan Schanck, Director of Education for the Pittsburgh Tissue EngineeringInitiative describes, "Through participation in the tissue engineering summercamp, we are helping students learn that science is so much more than justlists of factoids and formulas. By taking an inter-disciplinary approach,students are able to gain abilities to build scientific understanding andenhance communication skills. Students who are actively engaged in a hands-on, application-based approach to learning will be most likely to remembermaterial. As well, the camp encourages students to think by requiringinterpretation of observed events, rather than memorization. Overall TissueEngineering Summer Camp promotes fun in the classroom for students whotypically do not get one-on-one interaction in science for an entire week."

Components of the summer camp receive partial supported by Grant Number 1R25 RR023286 from the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), acomponent of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and by a Pen

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