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Engineering the heart piece by piece

“Although there remain tremendous technological challenges, we are now at a point where we can engineer first-generation prototypes of all cardiovascular structures: heart muscle, tri-leaflet valves, blood vessels, cell-based cardiac pumps and tissue engineered ventricles,?says Birla.

Research at the Artificial Heart Laboratory has focused on comparing different platforms to engineer functional heart muscle in the laboratory. Last December, Birla and first author Yen-Chih Huang, PhD, published a paper describing their success in growing pulsing, three-dimensional patches of bioengineered heart muscle, or BEHM. That paper describes the use of an innovative technique, using a fibrin hydrogel, that is faster than others, but still yields tissue with significantly better properties.

The gel was able to support rat cardiac cells temporarily, before the fibrin broke down as the cells multiplied and organized into tissue within a few days. Tests showed that the BEHM was capable of generating pulsating forces and reacting to stimulation more like real muscle than ever before.

Previously, the group described the results of a self organization strategy, showing that it was possible to engineer heart muscle that closely resembles normal heart muscle physiology without any synthetic scaffolding material. The U-M team and others have also shown how polymeric scaffolds can be used to engineer heart muscle of any shape or size to match the area of the damaged heart muscle ?raising the possibility of engineering customized patches to meet the specific requirements of patients. All of these approaches are described in the recent review article.

The new article, by Birla and lead author Louise Hecker, a graduate student in the U-M Department of Cell & Developmental Biology, describes the “bioreactor?that the team uses to grow their BEHM. It also details many other discoveries that have been made by other teams using different ce
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Source:University of Michigan Health System


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