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

dicare paid $3.4 billion for heart failure treatment.

Being able to provide tissue-engineered treatments to increase muscle strength and replace arteries blocked by heart disease could have significant positive impact on patient care.

To reach this goal, planned projects of the grant combine the expertise of University of Pittsburgh faculty in stem cell biology, tissue engineering and imaging in what is called a Bioengineering Research Partnership, added Dr. Wagner. "The great thing about Pitt is that we have these lines of communication already in place through the McGowan Institute."

Both projects establish populations of stem cells from muscles or bone marrow within a polymer that is specially formulated for flexibility and permeability and that biodegrades at a stable rate into non-toxic components in the body. The plan is to use this polymer scaffold as a bridge to generate new, healthy, native tissue.

In one project, a team of surgeons and bioengineers is developing a myocardial patch, which aims to serve as replacement tissue for damaged or diseased heart muscle. The process involves seeding of stem cells onto a biodegradable polymer scaffold and training this tissue for the rhythmic contractions that it ultimately will need to perform.

For the second project, a team led by David Vorp, Ph.D., associate professor in the departments of surgery and bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh schools of Medicine and Engineering, is working to develop tissue-engineered blood vessels that are a biological and functional equivalent to the patient's own blood vessels, such as those used for coronary artery bypass surgery. Mechanical stresses are being applied to these constructs in order to train them to grow and function similarly to natural blood vessels.

Related projects will track the development of these treatment options on a molecular level, measuring biological markers of stem cells to establish differentiati
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Contact: Michele Baum
412-624-2607
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
4-Aug-2003


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