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PITTSBURGH, PA – U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) today joined Eric K. Shinseki, United States Secretary for Veterans Affairs (VA) and U.S. Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA) to tour the Pittsburgh Tissue Engineering Initiative (PTEI).  Congressman Jason Altmire (D-PA) also joined them on the tour. PTEI is a leader in research, education and commercial development for the advancement of tissue-related medical therapies.  Senator Casey was also joined by Dr. Alan Russell, PhD, founding Director of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh and patients that have experienced the positive impacts from the research taking place at PTEI.  

“I am so glad to be here at Pittsburgh Tissue Engineering Initiative with Secretary Shinseki, Senator Specter and Congressman Altmire,” said Senator Casey.  “PTEI along with the University of Pittsburgh continue to make extraordinary strides in regenerative medicine that allows people to once again live full lives.  I stand committed to work with Secretary Shinseki and the Department of Veterans Affairs, as well as the Department of Defense, to ensure that this crucial research advances and is accessible to our veterans.”

“Senator Casey, Senator Specter, Congressman Altmire and the Congress have been great advocates for our Nation's Veterans and VA," said Secretary Shinseki. "Today was a great opportunity to see the remarkable work being done here in Pittsburgh and the medical breakthroughs that are benefiting our heroes."

“Today, we had an opportunity to see firsthand how the Pittsburgh Tissue Engineering Initiative is leading the way in improving treatments for America’s veterans,” Congressman Altmire said. “Together with Senators Specter and Casey, I will continue working to support innovative research initiatives like this that can help our wounded warriors successfully resume their lives here at home.”

Senators Casey and Specter have been successful in securing more than $8 million in congressionally directed funds supporting research taking place at the Pittsburgh Tissue Engineering Initiative.  Senators Casey and Specter have made this project a top priority in Defense Appropriations bill in each of the last three fiscal years.  

Senators Casey and Specter, Secretary Shinseki and Congressman Altmire were also joined by Corporal Josh Maloney of Bethel Park who underwent a hand transplant at PTEI.

The mission of the Pittsburgh Tissue Engineering Initiative is to improve the health of individuals by establishing the region as an internationally recognized center of excellence in research, education and commercial development for the advancement of tissue-related medical therapies.

Over the past three years, PTEI has successfully preformed three hand transplants that are allowing veterans to live more productive lives.   Additionally, PTEI is the first institution in the world to develop a cell therapy that allows patients to only have to take one versus three immune suppressing drugs that stops the body from rejecting hand and limb transplants, which is known as the Pittsburgh Protocol.