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ChBE in the News

Professor Tzanakakis has received two grant awards for his research on cellular therapies using human pluripotent stem cells

1. Stem Cell Bioprocessing (EAGER, NSF)
Stem cell bioprocessing aims at the realization of effective cellular therapies against maladies, which are currently considered incurable. While significant strides have been made in strategies for the conversion of stem cells toward therapeutically useful cell types in the laboratory, quantitative frameworks are lacking for the rational design and optimization of relevant bioprocesses. This NSF-funded project focuses on the development of multiscale models accounting for the heterogeneity of isogenic stem cell populations and temporally distinct intra- and inter-cellular processes affecting fate adoption. A theoretical framework is developed in conjunction with the differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells toward pancreatic islet cells in fully automated bioreactor cultures. The expected outcomes will contribute to the efficient generation of cellular material for regenerative therapies for diabetes and will spur similar efforts for the manufacturing of other therapeutically useful cell types including hepatocytes, cardiomyocytes, and neuronal cells. The images below show human stem cell cultivation in a microcarrier bioreactor.

2. Stem cell-based Engineered Cardiac Tissue Repair (DoD)
The overall goal of this DoD-supported project is the development of cellularized cardiac grafts for patients with congenital heart defects such as the Tetralogy of Fallot (ToF). This is a team effort led by Professor L. Black (BME), who is developing a silk-based scaffold in collaboration with the group of Professor David Kaplan (BME).

The scaffold will be loaded with cardiomyocytes derived from human pluripotent stem cells. Professor Tzanakakis' (ChBE) laboratory has developed methods for the generation and characterization of cardiomyocytes from human stem cells. More importantly, the laboratory has extensive expertise in the scalable cultivation of stem cells and their progeny given that the generation of large numbers of cardiomyocytes is a key requirement of this project. Cardiomyocyte-loaded scaffolds will be tested in a pig model of heart defects at the Cummings Veterinary Medical Center. The technology developed through this work is expected to benefit not only ToF patients but also those afflicted by a wide range of cardiovascular diseases requiring heart surgery.

(A) Human pluripotent stem cells differentiated to cardiomyocytes express α-actinin (ACTN1) and cardiac troponin T.
(B) Derived from human pluripotent stem cells cultured on microcarriers (stars) in a bioreactor, cardiac progenitor cells display relevant markers.