The regeneration of cells and tissue after injury or trauma is critical to medical and civilian communities. Cardiac injuries and regenerative engineering poses specific challenges since cardiac myocytes, the primary cells responsible for the mechanical beating of the heart muscle, do not regenerate. The cardiac system poses a significantly challenging problem in tissue engineering due to the complex 3-dimensional mechano-actuation properties of the cardiac cells. A grand challenge in cardiology since early 50s is the development of an artificial heart that can replace a failing heart. Until today, artificial heart is used only for the temporary use (hrs) until a healthy donor heart is found. The latter is difficult to get, and is often rejected by the body after successful replacement. This very limited success in heart replacement, in spite of considerable effort and resources invested so far, calls for a new paradigm in the approach of heart replacement.
This project attempts to offer a paradigm by proposing to "grow" the heart or its components from the basic building blocks, the cells (differentiated cardiomyocytes) of the patient, biomaterials design of the hydrogels scaffolds to house the cells, use of 3-D stereolithography for fabricating the hydrogel scaffolds with cardiac cells, and nanoscale mechanical and optical tools for characterization of cardiac cells and their interactions with the scaffolds. Our objectives are to integrate these multi-disciplinary efforts and develop the strategies and methodologies for novel designs of 3-D components of an artificial heart.