$2.5M Grant Helps Support Innovative Research in Repairing Heart Muscle

Seattle, WA

SEATTLE - (Feb. 3, 2009) - Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason (BRI) received a $2.5 million grant for principal investigator Margaret Allen, MD, for her work exploring innovative methods to repair heart muscle after damage from a heart attack. The grant is from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health. An initial pilot program for the grant found promising results. Dr. Allen is working in partnership with Michael Regnier, PhD, from the University of Washington, Department of Bioengineering.

“Heart muscle cells don’t regenerate after being damaged like some other organs of the body,” explains Dr. Allen. “Scientists have been working for years to find cells within the patient’s own body that could regenerate heart muscle, but nothing to date has reliably been able to grow into new heart muscle.”

Drs. Allen and Regnier are using atrial cells from the atrial appendage to study if they could be used for cell transplantation. The benefits of these cells are that they are already heart muscle cells, they are commonly not damaged during a heart attack, and, since they come from the patients themselves, they could be implanted into the damaged area of the heart without a risk of rejection.

“In preliminary experiments we took atrial cells, treated them, and then put them under the stress they would have to undergo if implanted into a heart attack site,” says Dr. Allen.  “The treatment allowed the cells to recover and after a couple weeks, they began to beat.”

The priority goal of the research is to develop a treatment to optimize the survival of cells after implantation.

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