A newly funded consortium of researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB; AL, USA), the University of Wisconsin-Madison (WI, USA) and Duke University (NC, USA) will work together in order to bring cardiac tissue engineering therapies into the clinic.
The US$8.6 million grant from the NIH National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute will fund this cooperative effort for seven years to allow the development a stem cell-derived treatment for cardiovascular disease.
The group aim to create 3D bioengineered, human heart tissue patches composed of the several cell types that make up heart muscle. The ultimate goal is to restore heart function following disease by implanting these healthy stem cell-derived grafts to replace the damaged tissue.
In this study, the teams will work with individualized cells and bioengineered patches derived from numerous cells, which will be tested in mice and pigs, respectively. They predict that following this 7-year study, the research will be advanced enough to begin human clinical trials.
“The excitement here is we’re moving closer to patient applications,” stated Timothy Kamp (University of Wisconsin–Madison). “We’re at a stage when we need to see how these cells do in a large animal heart attack model. We’ll be making patches of heart muscle that can be applied to these injured areas.”
These promising developments have been facilitated by the advent of embryonic and induced stem cell technologies, which the group is hopeful will allow the production of key cardiac cells in the lab including cardiomyocytes, fibroblasts and endothelial cells.
The UAB team will utilize novel human induced pluripotent stem cell lines to study the proposed cell therapy. Alongside this, the Wisconsin group will work to overcome the obstacle of developing heart progenitor cells with altered immunogenicity and the ability to conduct electrical signals to create a smooth heart rhythm. The Duke researchers will then develop the heart tissue patch technology utilizing cells provided by the other institutions involved in the study.
The consortium is confident that the generation and evaluation of this heart patch technology in large animal models will propel this research towards a future application of stem cells for the treatment of heart disease.
– Written by Adam Price-Evans