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RCCC and Regenerative Medicine FAQs

What is the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine?

The Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine (AFIRM) is a multi-institutional, interdisciplinary network working to develop advanced treatment options for our severely wounded servicemen and women. The AFIRM is managed and funded through the US Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (MRMC), with additional funding from the US Navy, the US Air Force, the National Institutes of Health, the Veterans Administration, and local public and private matching funding.

Which institutions make up the AFIRM?

The AFIRM is made up of two civilian research consortia working with the US Army Institute of Surgical Research (USAISR) in Fort Sam Houston, Texas. One consortium is led by Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey and the Cleveland Clinic, and one is led by Wake Forest University and The McGowan Institute in Pittsburgh. Each of these civilian consortia is itself a multi-institutional network. Click here for a
full list of the institutions.

When did the AFIRM program start?

MRMC issued cooperative agreements with the lead institution for each consortium, and work started during  the spring and summer of 2008. 

What sorts of therapies will be developed within the AFIRM?
The AFIRM was designed to speed the delivery of regenerative medicine therapies to treat our most critically injured service members from around the world, but in particular those coming from our theaters of operation in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are four major programs: Limb Salvage and Regeneration; Nerve Repair and Regeneration; CranioMaxilloFacial Reconstruction; Burns and Inflammation, Healing without Scarring, Skin Replacement.
How can I support RCCC AFIRM? Can I make a donation?
Contact us if you are interested in a tax-deductible donation to benefit research of AFIRM and develop therapies faster.
Are companies participating in the AFIRM? 

Dozens of commercial interests have expressed a willingness to work with the AFIRM consortia as commercialization partners. We are extremely pleased that the American medical device industry has taken such a keen interest in speeding these important new therapies to market not just for injured service members, but for civilian patients as well. We believe that this participation will ultimately lead to better healthcare options for all Americans.

What is “Regenerative Medicine”?

Currently metals and various plastics are used in the manufacture of implantable prostheses. Some examples include the hip implant, breast implant, and artificial heart valve. All of these devices are temporary replacements of natural tissue and ultimately fail if left in the body for too long. Regenerative medicine is “helping the body to heal itself” – a fundamentally new approach designed to naturally regenerate lost or damaged tissue without permanent implants.
Regenerative Medicine? Does that mean stem cells?

Adult stem cells and progenitors are an integral part of normal wound healing and the formation of all new tissues. Many of the strategies being developed by AFIRM seek to improve wound healing and tissue repair by increasing the number or improving the function of adult stem cells. A patient’s own cells, or in some cases, cells from another adult, are used in conjunction with special drugs called bioactive factors, or with advanced biomaterials that serve as scaffolds for growth of new tissues.

Will AFIRM researchers be using embryonic stem cells?

No. All of the research now funded through the AFIRM will use adult-derived stem cells taken from the patient or from another consenting adult.

Can these stem cells regenerate entire arms and legs?

No, not at present. However, the use of these cells, bioactive factors and biomaterials can help injured servicemembers to optimize their own capacity to heal and recover by forming new bone, skin, nerves, tendons, muscles, and blood vessels to replace damaged tissues. AFIRM collaborators plan to use these new strategies to dramatically speed and enhance the outcome of tissue repair, leading to greater opportunity and a more effective return to productive life after injury.

What are tissue scaffolds?

Tissue scaffolds are the medical implants of the future: small, porous, tissue-like implants made of fully degradable, specially designed biomaterials that support cells at the site of injury and assist the body in growing new, functional tissue. When the damaged or lost tissue has been successfully replaced by new tissue, the scaffold will have completely resorbed. Examples are regeneration of damaged or missing sections of bones, nerves, ligaments, blood vessels, and skin.