HARTFORD--UConn announced Wednesday it is launching a major research initiative called The HEAL Project, which stands for "Hartford Engineering a Limb."
The project's goal is to regenerate a human knee in seven years and an entire limb in 15 years. Current technology allows scientists to regenerate tissue, but the challenge is now to regenerate complex tissue types, thereby allowing the regeneration of entire limbs.
The project is based out of UConn and an estimated 25 UConn researchers will be involved. They will also work with scientists from around the world.
"It's a grand challenge, it's a bold project," said Dr. Cato Laurencin, an orthopedic surgeon who is spearheading the research.
The researchers will combine current knowledge on areas like stem cell science and developmental biology with future advances yet to be discovered. Their hope is to bring relief and easier treatments to patients, including veterans.
"We'd like this initiative to be able to benefit Wounded Warriors, other individuals who lose limbs," said Dr. Laurencin. "We also think we may have some treatments for osteoarthritis or other areas in terms of knee and hip osteoarthritis."
If successful, the research can make life easier for veterans by replacing current technology with prosthetics.
"Prosthetics are so expensive," said veteran Rebecca Wareing. "And it takes multiple fittings and it takes a lot of time to adjust. So if we can have someone immediately return to work and be part of their family because of this technology, how great would that be?"
Dr. Laurencin said the researchers also hope to develop a clinical trial translate the new therapies to patients as quickly as possible.