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Bioengineered, rhythmically beating heart muscle could aid cardiac research

CHAPEL HILL - The collaboration between cardiologist and orthopedist may at first seem novel, if not odd. But just such an interdisciplinary connection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has yielded potentially useful fruit: a bioengineered, rhythmically beating experimental model of heart muscle.

The new model system is a bioartificial trabeculum, or BAT. Trabecula are thin sections of cardiac tissue within the inner surface of the heart's main pumping chambers. Although still some distance away from any human clinical application, the model could prove a valuable scientific tool for exploring cardiac disease, including electrical and mechanical disturbances of the heart.

Details of the heart tissue model are being presented Monday (Aug. 5) to the World Congress of Biomechanics in Calgary, Canada.

"The purpose of our study was to explore the possibility that one could take isolated heart cells and under proper conditions allow them to coalesce and attach to each other in a functional way, thereby creating an artificial tissue," said cardiologist and co-developer Dr. Wayne E. Cascio, associate professor of medicine at UNC.

Cascio said the idea for the BAT originated with a biomedical engineering lecture by Dr. Albert J. Banes, UNC professor of orthopedics. Banes had spoken about his work on the development artificial tendons. Through a company he founded 18 years ago, Flexcell International in Hillsborough, N.C., Banes had developed a special tissue plate that has proven a useful framework in which cells in a liquid collagen gel could remodel on their own to form a more tissue-like structure. Other work elsewhere has involved rigid structures or lattices upon which cells attach to and grow.

"The fundamental basis for that company was a flexible bottom culture plate with the thought that all cells in tissues in our body are subjected to some forms of mechanical load, cyclic tensi
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Contact: Leslie H. Lang
LLANG@MED.UNC.EDU
919-843-9687
University of North Carolina School of Medicine
5-Aug-2002


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