Joseph P. Vacanti, MD, FACS, received the 2015 Jacobson Innovation Award of the American College of Surgeons (ACS) at a dinner held in his honor this evening in Chicago, Ill. Dr. Vacanti, the John Homans Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School, is also the director of the Laboratory for Tissue Engineering and Organ Fabrication, the codirector of the Center for Regenerative Medicine, and the chief of pediatric transplantation, at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Mass. The prestigious Jacobson Innovation Award honors living surgeons who have been innovators of a new development or technique in any field of surgery and is made possible through a gift from Julius H. Jacobson II, MD, FACS, and his wife Joan. Dr. Jacobson is a general vascular surgeon known for his pioneering work in the development of microsurgery.
Dr. Vacanti, a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons (FACS), was honored with this international surgical award in recognition of the work he has done in the field of tissue engineering, which began in the early 1980s. His work in this field stems from a long-held interest in solving the problem of organ shortages. Working with Professor Robert Langer from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Dr. Vacanti developed an approach which used tissue-specific cells placed in scaffolds made of biodegradable polymers. The cells, which can come from living tissue or stem cells, are then bathed in growth factors and then multiply to fill the scaffold. The cells then grow into three-dimensional tissue that, once implanted into the body, recreates its proper tissue function. Blood vessels grow into the new tissue, the scaffold degrades, and the lab-grown tissue becomes indistinguishable from its surroundings.