Researchers at Columbia Engineering have established a new method to patch a damaged heart using a tissue-engineering platform that enables heart tissue to repair itself. This breakthrough, recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is an important step forward in combating cardiovascular disease, one of the most serious health problems of our day.
Led by Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic, professor of Biomedical Engineering at Columbia University’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, the researchers developed a novel cell therapy to treat myocardial infarction (heart damage that follows a heart attack). They were able, for the first time, to combine the use of human repair cells that were conditioned during in-vitro culture to maximize their ability to revascularize and improve blood flow to the infarcted tissue with a fully biological composite scaffold designed to deliver these cells to the damaged heart. With this platform, they could both keep the cells within the infarct bed (in contrast to the massive cell loss associated with infusion of cells alone) and enhance cell survival and function in the infarct bed, where most of the cells would have died because of the obstruction of their blood supply.
“We are very excited about this new technique,” said Dr. Vunjak-Novakovic. “This platform is very adaptable and we believe it could be readily extended to the delivery of other types of human stem cells we are interested in to rebuild the heart muscle and further our research of the mechanisms underlying heart repair.”