UTEP Engineers Receive NIH Grant to Develop Cell Printing Technology for Regenerative Engineering
September 15, 2010 | UNIVERSITY COMMUNICATIONS
Dr. Tao Xu, Assistant Professor and co-head of UTEP's Regenerative Bioengineering and Biomodeling Laboratory in the lab with students. (left to right) Dr. Tao Xu; Jorge Rodriguez, Ph.D. student;Sunny Ambure, master's student; Daniel Reynal, master's student; Eduardo Rios, undergraduate; and Ricardo Espinoza, undergraduate.
Engineers at The University of Texas at El Paso are hoping to improve damaged heart cells using patented bio-printing technology.
According to the American Heart Association, one in three American adults have one or more types of cardiovascular disease. Although the use of stem cells to repair heart tissue is considered mainstream in cardiac research, the injection of stem cells into infracted hearts has met with limited success.
"After a heart attack, the heart cells cannot regenerate like skin cells can," said Dr. Tao Xu, Assistant Professor and co-head of UTEP's Regenerative Bioengineering and Biomodeling Laboratory in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. "Stem cells are commonly used to address heart attack problems…but the environment isn't ideal for cells to grow and survive."
Funded recently by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) with more than $423,000, Xu's research promises to improve the survival rate of injected stem cells by adding oxygen-releasing particles within improved stem cells micro-environments. "We want to reorganize a better niche for stem cell growth and differentiation," he says.
One of the pioneer groups worldwide to have such technology, Dr. Xu holds 5 patents on cell printing technology. Using microjet technology, his group has successfully and reliably bio-printed a variety of cell types, including human stem cells which have potential to become heart muscle cells.
During the three-year project, UTEP will improve current stem cell therapy by providing an environment that enhances proliferation for cell-based tissue regeneration and repair. In the future, UTEP will be collaborating with Texas Tech University and other local hospitals to perform animal studies and clinical trials.
"We're still years away from clinical trials, but we have a strong partnership with Texas Tech and local cardiologists and we're very excited about the potential applications for tissue regeneration and repair."
Dr. Xu's lab is also supported by National Science Foundation (NSF). The lab attracts students from UTEP and other universities such as Stanford University, Ohio State University, and Texas Tech University to conduct research in the field of Biomedical Engineering.