Research Stories

Research Stories

Science Care Health and News Research

Plastic Surgery: Discoveries Resulting From Whole Body Donation

Plastic Surgery: Discoveries Resulting From Whole Body Donation

Dr GrottingEarlier this summer, a story broke regarding the meeting of Richard Norris and Rebekah Aversano. In 2012, Norris, who was terribly disfigured from a gunshot wound, was the recipient of the first full facial transplant in the United States when he received the face of Aversano’s deceased brother. The meeting allowed Aversano to witness the results of the surgery and, for the first time, see her brother’s face on Norris’s body.

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Pain Management Made Possible Through the Use of Whole Body Donation

Pain Management Made Possible Through the Use of Whole Body Donation

Dr Ira FoxPain is often referred to as the fifth vital sign, indicating that its assessment and management are critically important in patient care. Yet treatment of pain, especially chronic pain, has proven to be one of the most challenging areas of medicine.

According to Dr. Ira Fox, MD, DABPM, FIPP, ABIPP, the specialty of interventional pain management has really evolved over the last 20 to 25 years. In 1996, Dr. Fox decided to leave the operating room as an anesthesiologist and dedicate all of his time to treating those with chronic pain. He founded Anesthesia Pain Care Consultants in Florida.

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Innovations in Arthritis Treatment Credited to Whole Body Donation

Innovations in Arthritis Treatment Credited to Whole Body Donation

Dr. Nathan Wei Arthritis Treatment CenterDr. Nathan Wei, an interventional rheumatologist based in Frederick, Maryland, is pioneering some groundbreaking new treatments for arthritis, and he believes none of this would be possible without the use of whole body donations to learn and refine his skills.

Dr. Wei points out, “Generally, rheumatologists don’t do arthroscopy.” Typical arthritis treatment involves the use of pills, injections, and exercises. However, under the tutelage of Dr. Lanny Johnson, an orthopedic surgeon in East Lansing, Michigan, Dr. Wei acquired the knowledge to perform arthroscopic procedures.

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Whole Body Donors Improve Infectious Disease Testing

You may have heard about the recent outbreak of Ebola in West Africa or remember the global outbreak of H1N1 in 2009. These outbreaks are worrisome because infectious diseases are often invisible during the incubation period and indiscriminate, infecting even the healthiest people.You may have heard about the recent outbreak of Ebola in West Africa or remember the global outbreak of H1N1 in 2009. These outbreaks are worrisome because infectious diseases are often invisible during the incubation period and indiscriminate, infecting even the healthiest people.

Several West African countries are fighting Ebola outbreaks.

ebolaEarly detection of infections diseases can improve recovery rates for those infected and slow spread of the disease. In May, Science Care whole body donors aided the development and validation of the safety and efficacy of infectious disease testing.


What is an Infectious Disease?

An infectious disease is a sickness that happens when an organism (a living thing such as a plant or animal) is attacked by a pathogen such as bacteria, or a virus that is too small to see. Some infectious diseases are contagious, which means that the pathogen can get from one organism to another through air, food, water, blood, or physical touch making others sick.

Due to research on the origin and spread of disease and the development of vaccines and other preventative measures, many formerly devastating infectious diseases including Smallpox, and the Bubonic Plague, are no longer a significant threat to those living in the developed world. However, diseases like Malaria and Cholera persist in developing countries that lack access to prevention and treatment.  Some infectious diseases are global in scale including Influenza, HIV and many food borne diseases.


The Bubonic Plague killed over 25 million people in Europe in a series of recurrent outbreaks before the epidemic began to die out. Cats are said to have had a key role in ending the epidemic because they killed the mice that were infected by the fleas that spread the disease.

Cats get credit for ending European Plague outbreaks

outbreaksToday we know good oral hygiene and clean public water and sewage systems do a lot to prevent the occurrence and spread of many infectious diseases, but soap and water can’t keep us safe from every germ.  As populations grow and people live closer together, the opportunity for disease to spread increases making early and accurate detection critical.

The Center for Disease Control’s Health Alert Network provides updated information about infectious disease outbreaks.  Popular media often misrepresents or exaggerates outbreaks, but you can consult the CDC for accurate information about specific diseases and disease prevention.

Improvements in testing for infectious disease facilitates early detection and helps prevent epidemics. The goal of the research enabled by Science Care donors is to improve the safety and accuracy of infectious disease testing leading to better diagnoses and reduced disease transmission. Science Care donors provide a pathway to knowledge and discovery that improves the health and safety of future generations.

Whole Body Donors Advance Hip Replacement Procedure Accuracy

bad-hipConsidering hip or knee replacement? About 7 million Americans have already had one. This story reports on the increasing success of hip replacements enabled by advances in medical research:  More than 2 in 100 Americans have New Hips, Knees. Hip replacements can alleviate pain and immobility caused by arthritis.

Science Care donors help researchers improve the quality of hip replacements and hip repair surgery.  Last month a medical facility trained practicing surgeons on a procedure utilizing a new approach to surgical repair of the hip joint. This innovative solution was designed for patients suffering from degenerative joint disease. The procedure aims to enable surgeons to work with higher precision using the latest techniques in total hip replacement and is designed to restore patient mobility and allow patients to return to an active lifestyle. The increased accuracy of the procedure is expected to allow patients to have shorter and less painful recovery periods. Most hip replacements are conducted on people over 50 years old. However, some need hip replacements when they are young. Abdul Moussadda was disabled by a degenerative form of arthritis when he was a teen. By the time he was 20 years old the disease had progressed so far that he was no longer able to attend school or leave his house. Last month he underwent double hip replacement surgery and now he is back on his bike! Here is his story: Teen Disabled by Arthritis Gets Hip Replacement at 20! Science Care donors enable physicians and surgeons to learn new procedures in a safe and effective manner without the risk of injury to living patients.

Science Care donors support life!

Over 400,000 people in the U.S. receive hip replacements each year. Hip replacement patients benefit from the medical advances enabled by Science Care donors.

Alzheimer’s Epidemic, Whole Body Donation Can Help

Many of us have been touched by a loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. It is a progressive, degenerative and fatal disease and it is on the rise. Alzheimer’s is currently the 6th leading cause of death today and every 68 seconds someone develops the disease. Alzheimer’s is an epidemic…a special thank you to Science Care donors for helping scientists research and develop new treatment options with the help of donated brain tissue. Please share this important video with those you love. Together we can help to support life and improve the odds for all of us.

Science Care Donors Help Save Life

operating tableTypically we share stories about how Science Care donors are helping to develop new medical devices and surgical techniques…how they help to train surgeons on better, less invasive techniques to improve patient outcomes. But today we have an unusual story of phenomenal lifesaving success. Our story begins with a vibrant young woman, an active military officer overseas in combat diagnosed with a large cancerous mass in her lower left abdomen. As a result she returned stateside for a treatment plan work up and orthopedic oncology services. The initial efforts to treat were designed to simply save her leg but the aggressive nature of the cancer resulted in the need for amputation. This changed and added complexity to the surgical dynamic. The required surgery was now a lifesaving operation (hemipelvectomy) with mass removal. The operative concerns included the officer’s life, neurology and vascular compromise, as well as abdominal and reproductive organ involvement. To explain the procedure further, a hemipelvectomy is a high level pelvic amputation, among the rarest of lower extremity amputations.

As with this case, a complete hemipelvectomy, includes the amputation of half of the pelvis and the leg on that side. Fortunately the surgeons on the case had immediate access to two Science Care donor specimens (previously slated for routine orthopedic training sessions). The donor specimens were engaged in order to help the surgical team prepare for the long and difficult procedure. Two days of very lengthy working sessions with the surgical team resulted in an operative plan with high expectations of a positive outcome. Without the opportunity to practice, prepare and plan for such a complex procedure the likelihood of a positive outcome for the patient would have been reduced significantly. The surgeons and operating room staff not only saved the officer’s life but she is aggressively returning to normal activity. As if additional evidence was needed to demonstrate the operative success – she will be able to have children and recently participated in a “mini-marathon” riding a modified bike. Below is a sample photo of someone after this type of procedure and fitted with a prosthesis.

after the surgeryThis surgery involved three primary surgeons and required over 20 hours in the operating room. According to the surgeons leading the team, there is no doubt that the unrestricted dissections, practice and planning contributed to this marathon surgery success. Without the generous gift and availability of donated tissue at the time when it was most critically needed, the outcome expectations would have been greatly diminished and the officer’s ability to have a high quality of life would have been low. Scotty Bolleter, Chief of the Office of Clinical Direction at the Centre for Emergency Health Sciences said,

“For me, this represents 30 years of medicine and teaching where a culmination of the right people, tools and gracious generosity found a path to SAVE lives!”

Science Care is honored to be a part of such a remarkable success story and we thank each and every donor that chooses to support life through medical research, training and professional education. You make a real difference every day. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author(s), and are not necessarily representative of those of the Department of Defense (DOD) or the United States Army, Navy, or Air Force and does not constitute endorsement by the United States Department of Defense of the information contained therein.

Foot & Ankle Health & Surgical Advances Critical to Quality of Life for All

Foot and ankle health can be overlooked as insubstantial to overall health and quality of life but many conditions affecting the foot can produce discomfort, limiting mobility. Pain and impaired mobility not only affects our ability to be effective in our lives, it can cause related psychological issues that affect overall quality of life. The foot anatomy is complex and consists of 26 bones, 33 joints and numerous tendons, ligaments and muscles. Foot and ankle surgery is performed to reduce pain, improve deformity and increase function. Whole Body Donors are helping to improve surgical techniques designed to restore alignment, reduce pain, and preserve movement of the ankle joint. Leveraging the advancements in knee and hip replacement, technology is applied to the ankle joint including advanced materials and anatomically-matched implant shapes and sizes. This type of joint replacement surgery is called: total ankle arthroplasty. Donation is helping to improve function and quality of life for us all. Thank you donors for the gift and for supporting life through whole body donation for medical research, education and training.

Donors Help Give Hope to Folks Disfigured by Facial Trauma & Cancer

Imagine facing the world with severe facial disfiguration due to trauma from injury or cancer. For most people the face is our window and filter to the world. It is closely tied to our sense of individuality, uniqueness, personal identity, personality, and psychological framework…it affects how we interact with the world and how the world interacts with us. (even the phrase “facing the world” directly correlates to facial interaction with other human beings) Facial trauma, injury and deformity can be debilitating both physically and psychologically. Maxillofacial trauma is any physical trauma to the face and can involve soft tissue injuries such as burns, lacerations and bruises, factures of bone, or eye injury. Symptoms may include pain, swelling, loss of function, or changes in the shape of facial structures. Facial injuries can cause disfigurement and loss of function such as blindness or loss of jaw movement. Injury may be a result of a fall, motor vehicle accident, violence, or cancer removal procedures. Treatment often involves complicated surgery which may be life-saving and/or secondary procedures to improve facial appearance and function. Risks associated with craniofacial reconstruction are common to all surgical procedures with general anesthesia and include bleeding, breathing problems, bruises beneath the skin, reactions to anesthesia and infection. There are other specific risks associated with each of the different types of facial reconstruction surgery as well. Many injuries that only involve the skin and soft tissues may just require scar revision or scar camouflage techniques. More complex trauma may involve bony tissues or a combination of soft and bony. These reconstructions often require multiple operations and teams of surgeons to achieve the desired goals for both function and appearance. The ultimate goal is the best possible outcome for the patient including long term structural functionality and aesthetics. This type of surgery is reconstructive in nature and should be performed by a plastic surgeon that specializes in this type of surgery. It is recommended that the patient seek the services of a facial plastic surgeon (as opposed to a general plastic surgeon). Science Care medical research and training clients are currently working on facial reconstruction techniques for those who have either suffered severe trauma or have lost a portion of their face due to cancer. In a unique and transformative application clients utilize donor tissue to train doctors to perform full face transplants. Successful full facial transplants have recently been in the news. This type of transformational surgery not only provides function (where there is little to none) but can restore hope for a more normal quality of life for the patient. Thank you donors for supporting life through whole body donation for medical research, education and training!

More Information:

Transdermal Drug Delivery Systems

What is TDDS? Think “the patch” but with the potential for much broader application. The first adhesive transdermal delivery system (TDDS) patch was approved in 1979 for motion sickness. Nitroglycerine patches in 1981. This method of delivery became widely recognized in 1991 when nicotine patches for smoking cessation were introduced. A transdermal patch is a medicated adhesive patch placed on the skin to deliver specific doses of medicine through skin and into the bloodstream. There are advantages over the oral route or hypodermic injection. The patches can release the drug for extended periods of time, improve patient compliance with the medication regimen and are relatively inexpensive. Hypodermic injections by contrast are painful, generate dangerous medical waste and pose the risk of disease transmission by needle re-use. Additionally, transdermal systems are non-invasive and can be self-administered. Key point: Only molecules small enough to penetrate the skin can be delivered by this method. A wide variety of pharmaceuticals are now available in transdermal patch form. But before these patches go to market, they must be carefully studied. This is where Science Care donors become critical. Donors are involved in the research, development and testing of these types of transdermal technologies. Without donation, the speed at which these advances in treatment options and the impact to patient quality of life today, would not be possible.

Robotic Assisted Surgery

One way that donors are able to directly impact healthcare is through the development of novel medical devices involving robotic assisted surgery and surgeon education. The goals are to improve overall quality of treatment utilizing a minimally invasive approach as well as the capability for remote distance surgery. This work leads to increased accuracy, shorter hospital stays, faster recovery times and improved quality of life for patients. Why the emphasis in the last 20 years on the development of more minimally invasive surgical techniques? What does it mean for me? Basically, this method of surgery involves less trauma to the tissues which in turn means that the patient experiences less pain and reduced downtime. There are several benefits to this, some obvious and others not so obvious:

  • Less pain, less reliance on pain medications, easier and more successful rehabilitation
  • Reduced risk of side effects such as scarring and infection
  • Improved quality of life achieved more quickly
  • Less time spent under expensive hospital care

Why robotic assisted surgery? Is this actually an improvement? This is one of the newest developments on frontier in the minimally invasive surgical technique tool box. There are pros and cons to all surgery so talk with your doctor candidly about your concerns. In general:

  • The robtic tools are simply implements that allow the surgeon to be able to be more effective or precise
  • Often the use of robotic equipment allows the surgeon greater range of movement while working in a very small space
  • Possible decreased blood loss and smaller incisions

Science Care donors directly impact the improvement of these devices and techniques and help to train surgeons. Whole body donation improves the lives of everyone!

Back Pain Helped by Whole Body Donation

Some sobering statistics about back pain:

  • Lower back pain is the second most common reason for visits to the family physician, behind only the common cold.
  • Back pain affects more than 80% of people in the United States.
  • The most common cause of lumbar back pain is normal degenerative arthritis: the wear of cartilage over time.

The good news is that there are various treatment options for back pain, including medications, physical therapy, or injections. Most people (90%) will see improvement within six weeks regardless of the method of treatment. But the other 10% may become candidates for surgery. Lumbar spinal fusion is one of the most common lumbar spine surgeries used today by surgeons and there are over 200,000 performed each year in the U.S. Science Care whole body donors are involved in lumbar spine fusion by way of helping to develop and improve minimally invasive options for surgery. Minimally invasive lumbar spinal fusion is similar to the traditional, but it uses much smaller incisions and results in significant benefits to the patient. For background, lumbar spinal fusion is an operation that causes the bones of the spine in the lower back to fuse together. The goal of the surgery is to have two vertebrae fuse together so there is no longer movement between the vertebrae, which is typically the cause of the problem. The minimally invasive surgery can be done through the abdomen, from the back, from the side, or with any combination of these. Science Care donors are contributing to training surgeons on the actual minimally invasive procedure, which allows surgeons the opportunity to increase their knowledge of the procedure and the ability to test new techniques. Minimally invasive surgery results in many benefits to the patient, including less damage to the surrounding tissue, reduced recovery times, less pain, reduced blood loss, reduced need for blood transfusions, shorter hospital stay, and less need for narcotic pain medications

The 30-Year Knee Replacement

Total knee replacement is among the most common surgery performed in the United States, with over half a million patients enduring surgery each year. Traditionally, a knee replacement would last about 10-15 years, but new customized knee replacements can last three times as long, up to 25-30 years. Science Care whole body donors contribute to research to develop and improve customized knee replacements. The research includes training surgeons on the actual implant procedure,allowing researchers the opportunity to better fit the devices and test new techniques of implantation. A customized knee replacement is no easy task because no two patients have exactly the same anatomy. Customized devices are designed to fit each person uniquely, and the process involves making a 3-D model of the patient’s knee, taking into account the bone structure, alignment, and even gender and age. Bio-engineers then use that 3-D model to create a personalized mold for the knee implant. In addition to the device lasting up to three times as long as before, customized knee replacements have additional benefits to the patient and the surgeon:

  • Reduced recovery times
  • Less pain
  • Decreased infections
  • Reduced blood loss
  • More precise surgery
  • Surgical time reduced approx. 40%

Science Care donors’ contribution is a huge benefit to the hundreds of thousands of people who undergo this knee replacement surgery every year.

Science Care Donors Support the Gift of Hearing

“Blindness separates us from things but deafness separates us from people.” – Helen Keller Science Care whole body donors have contributed to research to develop and improve cochlear implants, including training surgeons on the actual implant procedure, allowing researchers the opportunity to better fit the devices, and the ability for researchers to experiment with new techniques of implantation. Advances in computer technology and surgical techniques and devices have provided the opportunity to offer the world of sound to many people who otherwise would have spent their lives in a soundless cocoon. Approximately 38 million people have a significant hearing loss, including 3 million children. Many of them can now experience the gift of hearing thanks to cochlear implants. Cochlear implants have actually been around since the 1960’s, but were not used widely until the 1990’s. Initially, the deaf community did not approve of cochlear implants, fearing that the technology would affect deaf culture. Today, however, cochlear implants are widely accepted and used. A cochlear implant is a small, complex electronic device that helps to provide a sense of sound. The implant consists of an external portion that sits behind the ear and part that is surgically placed under the skin. This is how a cochlear implant works:

  1. A microphone picks up sounds, and sends it to a speech processor.
  2. The speech processor selects and arranges sound, and sends a signal to a transmitter.
  3. The transmitter converts the signal into an electrical impulse.
  4. Finally, a group of electrodes collects the impulses and sends them to the auditory nerve that the brain recognizes as sound.

Based on the success of cochlear implants, the FDA has approved implants in children as young as 12 months! Implants coupled with therapy can significantly help young children to learn speech and language skills. Today, more than 250,000 adults and children have received a cochlear implant…and with it, the ability to hear.

Making a Big Difference on a Microscopic Level

At Science Care, we talk a lot about the types of medical research and education that you can see with the naked eye, such as developing new and better hip or knee orthopedic implants and training surgeons how to use those. However, did you know that Science Care also works on a microscopic level? Even though some of the tissue we provide is much, much smaller than a hip or a knee, it makes a very big impact. One example of microscopic tissue that we provide is Cerebrospinal Fluid. This is a clear liquid that is found in the area surrounding the brain and spinal cord. As part of the central nervous system, this fluid serves two very important roles in the body: a vehicle for delivering nutrients throughout the nervous system, and it acts as a shock absorber to protect the brain and spinal cord from trauma. While Cerebrospinal Fluid is certainly important inside the body, it is equally as important outside of the body for research purposes. Research conducted with Cerebrospinal Fluid concludes that changes in the fluid can help diagnose Alzheimer’s Disease early, approximately 5-10 years before the disease presents itself. This information, coupled with current research, will likely lead to treatments and preventative measures that can be put in place long before the disease takes hold. Currently nearly 36 million people worldwide are living with this debilitating disease. Alzheimer’s Disease International estimates this number will double by 2050. By providing Cerebrospinal Fluid to clients, Science Care is helping to advance treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease by affording medical researchers the opportunity to make discoveries leading to earlier diagnosis, better and more effective treatments, and an eventual cure.

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