New Tech research center's aim: healing soldiers quicker

Georgia Tech officials on Tuesday unveiled a $5 million research center aimed at finding better ways to heal combat wounds and speeding those treatments into military use.

Often, such advances lag for long periods before moving into clinical use, said Barbara Boyan, the director of the new center. Many researchers focus on study and publishing in scientific journals rather than planning to move a product to the market, she said.

The Georgia Tech Center for Advanced Bioengineering for Soldier Survivability has coupled with several medical device firms early on, giving it an edge in moving advancements into medical use, she said.

Researchers at the center, which include clinicians and consultants experienced in combat medical care, focus on the healing of wounds, broken bones and massive muscle loss.

Medical care on the battlefield largely focuses on stabilizing a soldier, such as stopping bleeding and preventing infection, Boyan said. Oftentimes that soldier can be back in the U.S. for medical care within two days.

"We can take a concept discovered in an academic setting and transfer it into helping improve their lives," Boyan said.

The researchers currently are focusing on using a person's own stem cells — not the controversial stem cells taken from human embryos — to enhance tissue and bone repair. They are developing a better way to deliver stem cells to an injured area, in which the cells take hold and help grow tissue and bone, she said.

The center began its research last year but only recently received full funding, officials said.

Boyan, who is also the associate dean for research at Georgia Tech's College of Engineering, said the researchers hope their work leads to clinical trials within three years and is in use within five.

Eventually, she hopes that the advancements will be used in civilian trauma centers.

The center receives funding from the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine, the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research's Orthopedic Trauma Research Program, the U.S. Department of Defense and from private industry.