Categories:  Faculty, UI Hospital

Pioneering reconstructive transplant surgeon joins UIC

Maria Siemionow

Maria Siemionow led the surgical team that performed the first near-total face transplant in the U.S. Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin/UIC Photo Services

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

“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 Mark Gonzalez, the Riad Barmada professor and head of orthopaedics.

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

Siemionow is a leading expert in transplants that involve multiple tissues, as well as peripheral nerve surgery and microsurgery.

Siemionow’s clinical focus will be hand and peripheral nerve surgery. Her research is aimed at reducing tissue rejection and the need for lifelong immunosuppressive drugs in transplant patients, as well as 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 ignores these chimeric cells as part “self,” implanted donor tissue may be spared a full-blown rejection.

“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 said.

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 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 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, where she earned a doctor of science degree in microcirculation research.

Siemionow was director of plastic surgery research and head of microsurgical training at the Cleveland Clinic for 18 years. In 2009 she received the Polish Order of Merit.

She is president of the American Society for Reconstructive Transplantation and 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. She has edited three plastic surgery textbooks and two popular science books and contributed to 58 published book chapters.