"I think this project shows the importance of bringing together multidisciplinary teams, focused on the biology and the engineering, to create solutions that will meet real clinical needs," Gaudette said.
The Pins lab continues to develop the microthread technology for use as potential ligament and tendon scaffolds while also working to optimize the composition and mechanical properties of the threads. For example, they are experimenting with ways to control the tensile strength of the threads, and to control the rate at which the threads dissolve once implanted in the body. They have also developed new technologies to tailor the surface topographies and biochemistries of the microthreads to provide specific signaling cues that they predict will direct cell-mediated tissue responses.
In Gaudette's lab, the threads are being used as biological sutures to deliver bone marrowderived adult stem cells known as human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) to cardiac tissue damaged by disease or trauma. Studies by Gaudette and others have shown that when hMSCs are delivered to damaged hearts, they moderately improve cardiac function. A major challenge in these studies, however, is getting sufficient numbers of hMSCs to engraft into the damaged heart tissue. Prior methods of injecting the cells into the bloodstream, or directly into the heart muscle, yielded low results, with 15 percent or fewer of the cells injected actually surviving and attaching to the heart muscle. Using the microthreads to deliver cells to the heart has changed that dynamic.
"The early studies are very promising," Gaudette said. "We have developed ways to seed and grow the stem cells on the microthreads, and deliver them directly to the area needed, with more than 60 percent of those cells successfully engrafting. That's a major
|Contact: Michael Cohen|
Worcester Polytechnic Institute