Rocky S. Tuan Named Director of Pitt School of Medicine’s New Center for Cellular, Molecular Engineering

Issue Date: 
April 26, 2009
Rocky S. TuanRocky S. Tuan

The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine has established a new Center for Cellular and Molecular Engineering in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and appointed as its founding director, Rocky S. Tuan, a world-renowned expert in stem cell biology and tissue engineering.

For more than 30 years, Tuan has studied the workings of the musculoskeletal system and its diseases, including cartilage development and repair, cell signaling and matrix biochemistry, stem cell biology, nanotechnology, and many other orthopaedically relevant topics.

“Dr. Tuan will be an absolutely outstanding addition to our department’s research base,” said Freddie H. Fu, the David Silver Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery and department chair. “He has been exploring ways to repair damaged muscle and cartilage using regenerative medicine approaches that will greatly complement the technologies we, too, have been developing.”

The purpose of the new Center for Cellular and Molecular Engineering is to develop the knowledge base and the technical know-how toward the restoration of organ functions by applying principles of cellular and molecular biology as well as the physical sciences and engineering, Fu said. Novel approaches—such as stem cells, biomaterials, nanotechnology, and bioreactors—will be utilized to advance skeletal tissue engineering and regeneration.

“Research has the greatest impact when it is based on real-world needs, developed by means of integrated scientific principles, and delivered using translational approaches,” said Tuan, who also will serve as the executive vice chair for orthopaedic research. “My goal is to establish a national and international center of excellence built on research innovation, a strong education program, and an entrepreneurial culture that fosters local and regional collaborations among the academic, industrial, and business communities.”

Since 2001, Tuan has been chief of the Cartilage Biology and Orthopaedics Branch at the National Institute of Arthritis, and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). He received his undergraduate education at Swarthmore College and Berea College and his doctorate from Rockefeller University, New York.  Prior to his appointment at NIH, he held professorships in orthopaedic surgery at the University of Pennsylvania and at Thomas Jefferson University, where he also was vice chair and director of research in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. He currently has adjunct appointments at George Washington University School of Medicine and Georgetown University School of Medicine.

Tuan’s wife, Cecilia Lo, has been appointed founding chair of a new department of Developmental Biology in Pitt’s School of Medicine [see accompanying article]. Both Lo and Tuan have served on many professional committees and boards, published significant research papers in top-tier scientific journals, and delivered invited talks at highly regarded academic centers.

They will begin their positions this summer. They have been married for 33 years and have one child.