Research at Aesthetic & Plastic Surgery Institute

The laboratory for the Aesthetic and Plastic Surgery Institute at the University of California, Irvine is currently investigating novel ways to replace tissue through application of tissue engineering.

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Trauma, congenital abnormalities, and cancer surgery can cause devastating functional and aesthetic defects and deformities that negatively impact the daily life of individuals.

The Aesthetic and Plastic Surgery Institute seeks to restore the quality of life to these individuals. Current techniques frequently involve the transfer of tissue from one body location to another. These transfers can often cause problems at the donor site, which can be equally detrimental. The field of Tissue Engineering seeks to find biological substitutes to restore and re-establish these tissues.

The laboratory is currently focused on stem cell-based nerve replacement solutions. With collaborations between the Center for Biomedical Engineering, the Reeves Research institute, and the Departments of Biology and Molecular Biology, constructs composed of cellular and biodegradable materials are being fabricated for tissue reconstruction. The collaborations with industry form a circle between the areas of industry, clinic science and basic science. It is this interaction that advances the science of tissue engineering from the laboratory to clinical products. We have also adapted these techniques to other disease profiles, such as diabetic foot ulcers where stem cell therapy presents exciting new possibilities for therapeutic advancement.

Additionally, our laboratory is investigating unique ways of limiting the devastating outcomes of patients that sustain significant burn injuries. We are analyzing signaling mediators in the acute burn injury, developing a standardized diagnostic based on the signaling profile and investigating ways of balancing these mediators with a possible effect on the healing outcome.

All in all, the Institute’s Laboratory for Tissue Engineering runs a robust research program involving undergraduate, post-graduate and experienced researchers encompassing exciting and unique research projects.

If you are affiliated with a research institution interested in collaborative opportunities or would like more information about the institute’s research programs, please call 714.456.3482 or email awidgero@uci.edu.


Professor Widgerow UCIProfessor Widgerow completed his undergraduate and post-graduate studies at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa. He was the top surgical graduate at the University of Witwatersrand in 1989. He has held various positions in numerous academic and professional associations including that of President of the Association of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery of Southern Africa (APRSSA). He is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons and was appointed Honorary Professor by the Senate of Wits University in 1999. He is author of more than 110 plastic surgical-related publications and two books. He is currently editor-in-chief of Wound Healing Southern Africa. He was also the founder and medical director of 11 wound clinics in South Africa. His current fields of interest are translational basic science research, medical device innovations, tissue engineering and wound healing.

After 20 years in private plastic surgical practice in South Africa, Prof Widgerow relocated to Irvine California in Dec. 2009 to pursue his interests in research, medical device innovations and wound care, but he still plays an active role in academic medicine worldwide. In August 2012, he joined the University of California Irvine Plastic Surgery Division as Clinical Professor and Director of the Laboratory of Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine (TERM). He has redesigned and introduced major Research projects to the TERM Lab and has entered submissions on multiple Grant proposals. He has recruited a team of 15 researchers and runs a vibrant, dynamic research facility at UCIMC.