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Pitt researcher’s work headed to International Space Station

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WASHINGTON, D.C., June 16, 2016 – Rocky S. Tuan, Ph.D., has received a research grant from the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) to continue his work on a 3D microphysiological system (MPS) to be conducted on board the International Space Station (ISS) to evaluate the accelerated aging and degeneration process of bones that occurs in space.

"Studying such rapid progression of the disease offers great advantages to developing treatments for osteoporosis faster and more effectively, in ways that are not possible on Earth," said Dr. Tuan. "Our research will benefit not only the health of astronauts for long stays in space on the ISS or a future journey to Mars, but also will help people on Earth, providing capabilities for the screening of drug therapies, enhancing personalized medicine, and developing bioreactor technologies for tissue engineering."

The award is part of the 3D Microphysical Systems for Organs-On-Chips Grand Challenge by CASIS, which was chosen by NASA in 2011 to be the sole manager of the ISS U.S. National Laboratory. Monday's announcement was made at the White House Organ Summit.

Dr. Tuan is director of the Cellular and Molecular Engineering Lab and Distinguished Professor in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. He is internationally known for his research in stem cell biology, musculoskeletal tissue engineering, regenerative medicine, and for his innovative leadership role in biomedical education. He also is associate director of Pitt's McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine and director of the Center for Military Medicine Research.

"We are particularly appreciative of the research award from CASIS as recognition of our work on developing veritable models for skeletal tissues that may be used to understand the mechanisms of disease and to expedite drug screening for degenerative conditions such as osteoporosis and osteoarthritis," Dr. Tuan said.

The award was accepted by Peter Alexander, Ph.D, and Riccardo Gottardi, Ph.D, on behalf of Dr. Tuan and the University of Pittsburgh research team.

Under Dr. Tuan, Pitt's Center for Cellular and Molecular Engineering focuses on the science of treating injuries and diseases of the musculoskeletal system, utilizing nanotechnology and mechanobiological principles in combination with bioreactor and biomaterials technologies, including 3-dimensional printing, for functional skeletal tissue engineering and regeneration.

The MPS project has been partially funded by the Ri.MED Foundation, a collaboration between Italy's government, the University of Pittsburgh, and UPMC. The foundation, based in Palermo, Italy, promotes, supports and leads biomedical and biotechnological research projects, with emphasis on the translation of innovative results into clinical practice.

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About the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

As one of the nation's leading academic centers for biomedical research, the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine integrates advanced technology with basic science across a broad range of disciplines in a continuous quest to harness the power of new knowledge and improve the human condition. Driven mainly by the School of Medicine and its affiliates, Pitt has ranked among the top 10 recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health since 1998. In rankings recently released by the National Science Foundation, Pitt ranked fifth among all American universities in total federal science and engineering research and development support.

Likewise, the School of Medicine is equally committed to advancing the quality and strength of its medical and graduate education programs, for which it is recognized as an innovative leader, and to training highly skilled, compassionate clinicians and creative scientists well-equipped to engage in world-class research. The School of Medicine is the academic partner of UPMC, which has collaborated with the University to raise the standard of medical excellence in Pittsburgh and to position health care as a driving force behind the region's economy. For more information about the School of Medicine, see http://www.medschool.pitt.edu.

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