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Surprising Science

Scientist Helps Injured Veterans Re-Grow Damaged Tissues

Dr. Joachim Kohn has devoted his life to research and now it's paying off. He's creating new ways to regrow body parts for veterans injured in war.

What’s the Latest Development?

Dr. Joachim Kohn grew up knowing the ravages of war. Kohn lived in Munich, Germany in the aftermath of the Second World War with Jewish parents who had lost most of their brothers and sisters. He went on to study chemistry in Israel and earned his Ph.D. Kohn moved to the United States, working on post-doctorate in biomedical engineering at MIT. At MIT he used some of his previous work with polymers to help create drugs that break down over time in the human body. That was his first stepping stone into biomedical engineering that brought him where he is today: at the head of “a $250 million, Pentagon-funded exploit into regenerative medicine called AFIRM.”

What’s the Big Idea?

“AFIRM, short for the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine,” was created to “target the most common, debilitating injuries from this generation’s wars, including burns, lost limbs and invasive wounds, and use cutting-edge medical technology to heal them utterly and completely.” The program also hopes to fast-track these medical breakthroughs from several decades to less than one. Dr. Kohn is in charge of “dozens of research projects, performed by nearly 150 scientists at 21 different institutions, including Harvard, the Mayo Clinic and the Massachusetts General Hospital.” The hope is that injured soldiers will soon have new skin, ears, and bones indistinguishable from their old selves.

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