The academic year 2008 was nothing short of stellar for the Tissue Engineering Program that is led by Dr. Christopher Breuer, Assistant Professor of Surgery and Pediatrics. Dr. Breuer and his laboratory have previously been awarded the nation’s highest research honors by the American Pediatric Surgical Association and by the American Surgical Association. The latter, the ASA, is the most prestigious and respected surgical organization in the United States and includes surgeons from every surgical discipline both adult and pediatric. Dr. Breuer and his laboratory were recently recognized as undertaking some of the most innovative and ultimately impactful work in all of surgical research. Dr. Breuer was also recently awarded the Jacobsen Research Award from the American College of Surgeons. This award is given to one investigator and one laboratory per year and indicates research which shows exceptional promise to have an impact on human disease. Finally in 2008 Dr Breuer’s laboratory received the new investigator award from the International Society of Applied Cardiovascular Biology.
The Tissue Engineering laboratory’s primary focus is the development of tissue engineered vascular grafts for implantation into human infants with congenital heart disease. In short, this laboratory is growing blood vessels in the laboratory out of a patient’s own tissue for later implantation into that patient to correct its congenital defect. These “transplanted” “artificial” organs will not be rejected because they are grown from the patients own cells. Yale Children’s Surgery has been fortunate to recruit the world’s leading congenital heart surgeon in this area, Dr. Toshi Shi’noka. Working together, Dr. Shi’noka and Dr. Breuer expect to have FDA approval for implantation of these grafts into human infants at Yale during the next year. Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital will be the first and only center in the United States to be offering this potentially life saving procedure to babies with severe heart disease.
One of the major missions of the tissue engineering program is the training and development of future scientists and leaders. As you might expect, such an effort can only be accomplished with support from competitive grant funding and in partnerships with industry. In an institution with a talent pool as broad and deep as Yale University, Dr. Breuer works closely with colleagues in biomedical engineering, vascular biology, molecular biology, and many other disciplines. In the past four years, Dr. Breuer has trained greater than 10 research fellows all of whom will go on to their own independent careers in biomedical research. In 2008, Dr Jason Roh, a Yale Medical Student completing his thesis under Dr Breuer’s supervision, was awarded the top prize for the best medical school thesis at Yale School of Medicine.