University of Toronto
The heart, unlike other organs in the body, has a limited ability to grow new cells, making healing difficult after injury. That could soon change as researchers at the University of Toronto close in on a way to use human stem cells to mimic the structure of worn-out organs.
Their recent discovery, published August 2013 in one of the of the most prestigious research journals (Nature Methods), found a way to mature beating heart cells derived from stem cells using electrical pulses to mimic the heart rate of fetal humans. The study was led by Dr. Milica Radisic, a Canada Research Chair in Functional Cardiovascular Tissue Engineering and recipient of a 2014 Steacie Memorial Fellowship. In 2008, she was named one of the world’s Top 35 Innovators Under 35 by MIT’s Technology Review.
Dr. Radisic’s long-term goal is to see stem cells become the preferred material for replacing heart tissue. In the shorter term, her research focuses on creating samples of both healthy and diseased human heart tissue to use as models for drug discovery and testing. Her team is currently working with the Centre for the Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine to bring the heart tissue model to the marketplace.
Dr. Radisic’s research could result in completely new treatments for damaged or failing hearts as well as tissues for use in such areas as bone and wound healing.