UNC Division of Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery      UNC Health Care      151 Old University Station Road, Chapel Hill, NC 27514

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Research Projects in the UNC Division of Plastic Surgery

The UNC Plastic Surgery Division conducts research in a broad spectrum of clinical and basic science fields. UNC plastic surgeons strive on every level to contribute to tomorrow’s medical community, whether they are examining the fundamental properties of stem cells, exploring the limits of modern surgical techniques in our hospitals or working to improve the quality of care in developing areas abroad.

Current Research Projects

Post-mastectomy breast reconstruction surgery decision-making

Objective: Evaluate the decision-making process and the quality of decisions about reconstruction.

Deciding whether or not to have breast reconstruction after mastectomy is highly challenging for many patients. Clara Lee, MD, MPP, a UNC School of Medicine physician/scientist, has received a five-year grant award to examine patients’ decision-making process about reconstruction and the effects of reconstruction on quality of life and body image. The $862,700 career development award to the plastic and reconstructive surgeon is from the National Institutes of Health.

Lee, an associate professor of surgery, explains, “The decision about whether or not to have breast reconstruction should depend almost completely on a patient’s personal preferences. And yet we find that rates of breast reconstruction in the United States vary greatly by race, socioeconomic status, and geography.”

Soft tissue coverage of tissue engineered bone

Objective: To provide robust soft tissue coverage of tissue engineered bone created from fat and craniofacial bone-derived stem cells. Tissue engineered bone is being created in the lab at North Carolina State University, and the soft tissue is harvested from patients undergoing craniofacial surgery such as cleft lip and palate repair.

Umbilical cord blood-derived stem cell growth on nanofibers

Objective: Our goal is to grow stem cells on nanofiber scaffolds for the engineering of multiple tissue types. Blood of the umbilical cord is the largest source of untapped embryonic-like stem cells. Nanofibers are small fibers (between 10 and 1000 nanometers) made from different biodegradable, natural and synthetic compounds.

Heterotopic ossification in burn patients

Objective: Identify the molecular reasons that heterotopic ossification occurs in burn patients at the elbow. Physicians do not know the cause, but heterotopic ossification (bone at ectopic sites) remains a risk for burn patients. The elbow is a predictable site for this type of bone formation.To understand this process may help eliminate heterotopic ossification in burn patients, and more importantly, may help us improve bone growth in areas where bone is absent.

Service to  local and international communities

Objective: Promote the welfare of challenged or under-served international and local communities. Dr. Clara Lee leads an effort to prevent injury and improve treatment of road injuries in Malawi. Dr. C. Scott Hultman has taught laparoscopic surgery in Nicaragua and is currently developing an exchange program with the Cherokee Indian Health Service in the state of North Carolina.

Real Patient Stories

Kandy | Eyelid Surgery Patient
"Bottom line I did this just for me!" (Read More)

Ethel | Tummy Tuck Surgery Patient
"I love my size 2 and shopping." (Read More)

Jackie | Radiesse Patient
"I’m having fun and feeling great!" (Read More)