Fixing broken hearts through tissue engineering
A Canadian has a heart attack every seven minutes, resulting in a death toll of more than 16,000 a year from heart disease. Making matters worse, the heart, unlike other organs in the body, has very little ability to repair itself.
Dr. Milica Radisic, Canada Research Chair in Functional Cardiovascular Tissue Engineering, aims to change this through tissue engineering. It’s a process that involves seeding cells into biomaterials in the lab—and ultimately implanting them inside human bodies.
Radisic is working toward the goal of using stem cells to engineer replacement heart tissue. To achieve this goal, she will develop new biomaterials that will keep the cells alive and functional during the engineering process and allow them to integrate into the patient’s system upon implantation.
While this is a long-term goal, the heart tissue Radisic is engineering also has more immediate application. She will create samples of both healthy and diseased human heart tissue that can be used as a model for drug testing and discovery.
Radisic’s research could result in completely new treatments for damaged or failing hearts as well as tissues for use in such areas as bone and wound healing.