NHLBI awards $8 million grant for study to create a bioengineered, human heart tissue patch

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Researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), the University of Wisconsin and Duke University received an $8 million grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) to create a bioengineered, human heart-tissue patch to prevent heart failure and restore heart function.

The researchers plan on using the money over a seven-year period to test bioengineered cells in mice and bioengineered patches in pigs, according to a news release from UAB. They hope to test the patch in clinical trials after seven years.

The grant is part of the second round of the NHLBI’s Progenitor Cell Translational Consortium U01 funding, which helps promote cooperative research agreements to develop heart, lung and blood cell therapies.

The news release noted that researchers at the University of Wisconsin will develop novel heart tissue progenitor cells, the Duke researchers will develop the heart tissue patch technology and the UAB team will study the effectiveness of the cell therapy.

Previous research found that implanting cells in infarcted heart has been associated with low survival and retention rates, according to the release. It also mentioned that the optimal mix of cell types in the patch for heart repair and regeneration was unknown. In addition, the researchers must engineer the patch to contract in synchrony with the heartbeat and learn how a patch will affect bioenergetics and possibly contribute to heart arrhythmia. Further, they must learn how the immune system responds to heart patches derived from cells or from a different donor.