Modeling Tissue Engineered Constructs

Untitled2017Recently, post-doctoral researcher Antonio D’Amore (pictured right) and McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine director William Wagner, PhD (pictured left), professor of surgery, bioengineering and chemical engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, director of Thrombosis Research for the Artificial Heart and Lung Program, and deputy director of the NSF Engineering Research Center on “Revolutionizing Metallic Biomaterials,” spoke with Tom Imerito, president of Science Communications, about the McGowan Institute, the Cardiovascular Engineering Laboratory, and Dr. D’Amore’s research project.  Mr. Imerito learned and reported that the primary research interests of the Wagner Cardiovascular Engineering Laboratory in the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine are in the area of cardiovascular engineering with projects that address medical device biocompatibility and design, tissue engineering, and targeted imaging.  The laboratory’s mission is to apply engineering principles to develop technologies that will improve the diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular disease.

Soft tissue engineering applications require accurate descriptions of native and engineered tissue microstructure and their contributions to global mechanical behavior. In the Cardiovascular Engineering Laboratory, Dr. D’Amore’s project focuses on the development and experimental validation of a multi-scale modeling strategy to guide tissue engineering scaffold design and to provide a better understanding of cellular mechanical and metabolic response to local micro-structural deformations. Dr. D’Amore’s research will be used to engineer synthetic materials for implantation in patients suffering from tissue and organ insufficiencies.  Targeted clinical applications are cardiac patches and heart valves.

In the lab, a custom-made software was developed and tested on electrospun poly(ester urethane) urea (PEUU) scaffolds to fully characterize engineered construct morphology. The detected material topology was adopted to generate statistically equivalent scaffold mechanical models. Dr. D’Amore’s ultimate goal is to connect (1) tissue engineering scaffold fabrication parameters, (2) micro architecture, and (3) organ level – cell level mechanical response. The model prediction will be used to design and generate prescribed electrospun elastomeric scaffolds. A mechanistic understanding of how the material micro structure translates into a specific mechanical response would lead to a better performing generation of tissue engineered constructs.

Also, Mr. Imerito learned of what’s behind the McGowan Institute’s three-pillar, patient-centric approach to the problem of replacing failed tissues and organs.  As he described in his article, “the first of the pillars is made up of intermediary assistive devices, such as heart pumps and artificial lungs, which are designed to keep patients alive while they wait for donor organs.  Next, the field of tissue engineering – Dr. D’Amore’s area of expertise – attempts to remedy tissue and organ deficiencies with both natural and synthetic substitutes.  Finally, stem cell therapy has emerged as a viable option due to the discovery of ways to coax adult stem cells to differentiate into a variety of organ cells.  But, rather than looking for ideal solutions for any one of these areas at some point in the future, the McGowan Institute mixes and matches all of them to improve the lives of individual patients today.”

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Wagner Cardiovascular Engineering Laboratory