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Altman Receives Grant

Altman Receives GrantDedicated to tissue research after a career-ending knee injury, former Tufts football player Greg Altman recently received a major government grant. Medford/Somerville, Mass.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [12.11.03] When Greg Altman, a former offensive tackle and pre-season All-American for Tufts' football team, suffered a knee injury in 1996, his football career was over. But the injury marked a new beginning for Altman, who began to pursue research to help those with injuries like his own. After making a leaping discovery in the field of tissue regeneration, the Tufts graduate - in partnership with Tufts - has received a major government grant to pursue his innovative research.

"After receiving a Ph.D. from Tufts, [Altman] vowed to develop a technology that would help those with knee injuries," reported Mass High Tech. "Now [the] former Tufts University football player has received federal funding to develop a company that will provide the tools to improve reconstructive surgery of the knee."

Altman - a research assistant professor in Tufts biomedical engineering department - and a team of researchers made a breakthrough medical discovery last year. Using specially designed silk and narrow tubing, the team was able to grow ligaments - a major finding for the 200,000 people who have ligaments repaired every year.

Now Altman - who received his undergraduate degree from Tufts in 1997 and a doctorate in engineering at Tufts' School of Engineering in 2002 -- has received federal funding for Tissue Regeneration Inc. (TRI), a company he founded to advance reconstructive surgery of the knee.

"TRI recently received a $750,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop knee ligament replacements from silk biomaterial," reported the newspaper.

According to Altman, the project - a collaboration between TRI and Tufts' department of biomedical engineering - will gain momentum with the new support.

"The concept is simple," Altman told Mass High Tech, "but the implementation is quite complex. There is a big mechanical component, and a lot of answers to be found on the biological side as well. This grant helps, as has the support of Tufts."

In 2001, the Tufts team received a grant to study the viability of using silk biomaterial, the patient's adult stem cells, and a bioreactor to create a new ligament tissue. The new grant - which comes from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases - will fund a new reactor system, improvements of the silk and preclinical trials.

"It has been difficult waiting for the second grant," Altman told the newspaper. "But I am not complaining. If we received money from a [venture capitalist], we would have given up half the company."

According to Mass High Tech, Altman's TRI is addressing a growing market. In 2003, the cost of an anterior cruciate ligament (knee surgery) was between $10,000 and $25,000 - adding up to an estimated annual cost of $3.5 billion.

And Tufts expert David Kaplan said that Altman's new company is capable of making strides to improve knee surgeries.

"TRI has clearly demonstrated the feasibility of its novel silk biomaterial and unique tissue engineering approach in forming a fully functional ligament," said Kaplan, chair of Tufts biomedical engineering department and director of Tufts Biotechnology Center.

Kaplan added, "We're excited about working with a company that has such potential in establishing an alternative to reconstructive surgery and synthetic prostheses."

 

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