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Grant funds research to develop tissue-engineered solutions for heart disease

PITTSBURGH, Aug. 4 The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded a grant of nearly $5 million to the University of Pittsburgh's McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine to fund research aimed at developing unique tissue-engineered solutions for heart disease. Specific projects related to the grant will focus on the development of a tissue-engineered "cardiac patch" and tissue-engineered blood vessels for possible surgical use following heart attack or other cardiovascular events.

The grant, through the NIH's National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, goes to a multidisciplinary team assembled by project principal investigator William Wagner, Ph.D., associate professor of surgery and bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and associate professor of chemical and petroleum engineering at the University of Pittsburgh School of Engineering.

"We are working on ways to grow tissues that will not just be similar to our own in terms of their make-up, but also that will be mechanically strong and functional," said Dr. Wagner, who also is a deputy director of the McGowan Institute. "To do this, we will need to train the tissue as it develops for the role that it will ultimately assume."

Such tissue development efforts aim to help the body regenerate its own components needed to repair damage caused by heart attack or underlying disease such as congestive heart failure (CHF), a loss of functional heart muscle. Nearly 5 million Americans are currently living with CHF, according to the American Heart Association. About 550,000 new cases are diagnosed annually. Of those, about 50 percent likely will die within five years.

Significantly, CHF also can substantially diminish quality of life. Because the heart pumps inefficiently, patients can feel breathless and weak after minor exertion. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CHF is responsible for about 260,000 deaths a year. In 1995 alone, Me
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Contact: Michele Baum
412-624-2607
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
4-Aug-2003


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