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‘Cardiac Patch With Bioink’ Developed to Repair Heart

POHANG (KR), April 2020 — Researchers have developed a cardiac patch with bioink that enhances the ability of stem cells to regenerate blood vessels and improve the area of a heart after damage due to a  myocardial infarction or disease.

The research team consisted of Jinah Jang, Ph.D., Sanskrita Das, Ph.D., and doctoral candidate Seungman Jung of Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH); Hun-Jun Park, M.D., Bong-Woo Park and Soo-Hyun Jung of the Catholic University of Korea (Seoul); and Kiwon Ban, Ph.D., and his fellows from City University of Hong Kong. They mixed genetically engineered stem cells developed by SL Bigen Co. Ltd., to make bioink in the form of a patch and transplanted it to a damaged heart—a strategy the team calls “in vivo priming.” The name comes from the principle that maximized function of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are maintained in vivo as well as through exposure to the growth factor secreted by the genetically engineered stem cells.

The team first genetically engineered the existing human bone marrow-derived (BM-MSCs) to consistently produce hepatocyte growth factor and improve the therapeutic potential of stem cells. The engineered stem cells (HGF-eMSCs) were then mixed with BM-MSCs to make the bioink. They then transplanted the cardiac patch with this bioink to the heart muscles affected by myocardial infarction. Considering the limited number of cells that could be transferred, they used heart-derived extracellular matrix bioink to make a cardiac patch.

Implanted cells in a patch survived longer in vivo and had more myocardiocytes survive than a control group in which BM-MSCs-only were transplanted. This was because the secretion of cytokine, which helps formation of blood vessels and cell growth, was maximized and delivered nutrients fluently, promoting vascular regeneration and enhanced survival of the myocardiocytes.

The research team anticipated that this new method could be a breakthrough treatment of myocardial infarction as the implanted stem cells through HGF-eMSCs ultimately enhanced vascular regeneration and improved the myocardial infarction-affected area.

“We can augment the function of adult stem cells approved by the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety and the FDA using this newly developed and promising 3D bioprinting technology with the engineered stem cells. It is our goal to develop a new concept of medicine for myocardial infarction in the near future,” said Prof. Jang, who led the research.

POSTECH began to develop medicine for cardiovascular diseases based on this bioprinting method with the research team from Catholic University in 2017. Now, it is being tested in animals for efficacy evaluation with Chonnam National University. Also, the technology has been transferred to T&R Biofab, a company developing 3D printers, software and bioinks to print cells.

The current study is published in the March issue of Science Advances

Image courtesy of Bong-Woo Park.

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DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aay6994