The research program integrates the disciplines of cell biology, bioengineering and cardiology. A tissue engineering approach is being used to investigate the potential of cardiovascular reconstruction/regeneration and the training of undergraduate students, medical students, graduate students and post-doctoral fellows. By providing an environment in which diverse disciplines intersect, it is the goal to foster a creative environment that will lead to innovation and application of new technologies for the treatment of cardiac diseases.
My laboratory has demonstrated that an in situ tissue engineering approach using biopolymers alone or biopolymers combined with stem cells have the potential to create angiogenesis, increase cell survival and prevent the negative remodeling associated with a myocardial infarction. Recently, we have demonstrated that an in situ tissue engineering approach can restore the geometry of a chronic aneurismal heart and improve left ventricular function. Peptide modification of polymers are being developed and tested to enhance stem cell migration, survival, differentiation and the formation of blood vessels and myocardial cells. Electroanatomical mapping, imaging and customized catheters have been integrated to develop a percutaneous approach for tissue engineering that will be more applicable for clinical development.
A platform technology utilizing antibodies to target stems cells to injured organs is being investigated. The initial proof of concept has been performed in an ischemia reperfusion model of myocardial infarctions. It has been shown that stem cells armed with a targeting antibody specifically localize in ischemic injured myocardium as compared to unarmed stem cells. Increased left ventricular function has been demonstrated. The targeting technology is being used to direct stem cells and genetically engineered stem cells for correcting vascular injury, myocardial injury, stroke and modifying the cardiac conduction system. The technology is also being used to investigate the role of the microenvironment on stem cell differentiation.