Cardiac Tissue Engineering

With more than one million Americans suffering heart attacks each year, coronary artery disease is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. After cardiomyocyte death, an inflammatory wound-healing response is initiated, resulting in fibrous tissue (scar) formation. Cardiac fibrosis is considered an independent risk factor in the outcome of heart failure, and no effective treatment exists to alleviate this problem.

An ideal treatment for heart attacks would result in full restoration of cardiac tissue function without pathological scarring. We are developing new strategies for cardiac regeneration that not only reduce pathological fibrosis but also promote migration and growth of cardiomyocytes within the infarct area. We have developed 2D micropeg and 3D microrod scaffold systems that significantly inhibit proliferation of fibroblasts and the synthesis of extracellular matrix proteins.

Current work on this project is focused on three areas:

  1. Understanding the biochemical and biophysical response of fibroblasts to micropegs and microrods in culture
  2. The remote manipulation and alignment of microrods
  3. Development and characterization of the mechanical properties of 3D microporous scaffolds made of biocompatible hydrogels.

cardiac tissue engineering diagram 1

PEG-DMA microrods visualized by light microscopy, fluorescence microscopy in 2-D cell culture, and in 3-D cell culture.

cardiac tissue engineering diagram 2

Stained cross-section of a heart showing successful delivery of microrods.

In collaboration with Randall Lee, MD, PhD