Stem cell therapy is believed to be the most viable method for restoration of cardiac function after Myocardial Infarction (MI), the leading cause of death in Europe. Despite numerous attempts at injecting stem cells into post-MI heart to affect regeneration, the consensus is that anoikis (cell death) induced by the lack of contact between the cells and the tissue scaffold during injection, the harsh environment at the injection site, and powerful myocardial contractions cause massive cell loss rendering the therapy ineffective. The goal of this project is to enhance treatment efficacy by individual cocooning of bone marrow stem cells in bioengineered collagen-based microspheres. The cocoon provides the tissue support for cell survival, promotes integrin upregulation for better engraftment of the cells onto the heart tissue, and protect the cells from the harsh post-MI environment. The spheres will be grafted with recognition moieties for the infarct areas, e.g. NGR peptide to enhance targeting. They will also contain growth factor VEGF to promote re-vascularization of ischaemic areas, and gold-coated silicon nanoparticles for in vivo tracking. The cocooned cells will be tested in vitro for their safety and efficacy (e.g. spheres degradation rate, cytotoxicity), and in vivo in MI mice models for their effectiveness in restoring heart functions by echocardiography, and for their traceability by dual-energy CT. As a Canadian researcher, I already joined the Liedberg group at Linkoping University, Sweden, in March 2011 as an Assistant Professor on a temporary, short-term basis to establish this project. My expertise in biomaterials and cell encapsulation combined with peptide, nanoparticle, and imaging expertise of the host laboratory are an excellent match for the success of the project. If the funding is granted, it enables me to extend my stay in Sweden to meet the goals of this beneficial project that will enhance collaborative research between Europe and Canada.
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