Pioneer tissue transplant surgeon joins UIC

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April 3, 2014

Maria Siemionow

Dr. Maria Siemionow. Click on image to download. Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin/UIC Photo Services

Dr. Maria Siemionow, who led the surgical team that performed the first near-total face transplant in the U.S., has joined the faculty of the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine as professor of orthopaedic surgery.

“We are pleased to have such an accomplished, world-renowned surgeon who has been a pioneer in the fields of nerve regeneration and composite tissue transplantation,” said Dr. Mark Gonzalez, the Riad Barmada Professor and head of Orthopaedics in the UIC College of Medicine.

“We are all looking forward to having her on our team.”

Siemionow is a leading expert on vascularized multi-tissue allografts, peripheral nerve surgery and microsurgery.

Siemionow’s clinical focus will be on hand and peripheral nerve surgery. She is also engaged in research aimed at reducing tissue rejection and the need for lifelong immunosuppressive drugs in transplant patients and developing techniques to enhance nerve regeneration.

She is investigating the effect of chimeric cells – made by fusing donor and recipient bone marrow stem cells – on the immune system’s natural attack response to foreign tissues and donor organs. If the immune system leaves these chimeric cells alone as part “self”, implanted donor tissue may be spared a full-blown rejection response.

“Chimeric cell infusion on the day of transplant might allow for lower doses of traditional anti-rejection drugs, or gradual elimination of the immunosuppression,” Siemionow says.

Her work on repairing nerve damage revolves around the innovative use of epineural sheaths. The epineurium is a layer of tissue that surrounds, nourishes and protects bundles of nerves. Siemionow has found that this tissue, when applied to areas of nerve damage, speeds healing and encourages the body’s natural neuroregenerative process.

Siemionow earned her medical degree from the Poznan Medical Academy in Poland, where she also completed her residency in orthopedics. She earned a Ph.D. in microsurgery and completed a hand surgery fellowship at the Christine Kleinert Institute for Hand and Microsurgery in Louisville, Ky. She was associate professor of surgery at the University of Utah and earned a doctor of science degree in microcirculation research there.

Siemionow was director of plastic surgery research and head of microsurgical training at the Cleveland Clinic for 18 years before joining the faculty of UIC. In 2009 she received the Polish Order of Merit, the Commander’s Cross Polonia Restituta Award from the President of Poland.

Siemionow currently serves as president of the American Society for Reconstructive Transplantation and is a past president of the International Hand and Composite Tissue Allotransplantation Society and the American Society for Peripheral Nerve.  She is a member of the academic-industry team known as the Warrior Restoration Consortium, which focuses on the development of clinical therapies and new treatments for wounded soldiers as part of the Armed Forces Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

Siemionow serves on the editorial board of nine professional society journals and is an ad hoc reviewer for six professional society journals. She has published more than 320 scientific articles and has edited three plastic surgery textbooks, two popular science books, and has contributed to 58 published book chapters.

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