June 13, 2011

Perkins Coie awards grant for nanoengineering patch to repair heart attack damage

UW Health Sciences/UW Medicine

Perkins Coie law firm

Deok-Ho Kim’s research group

Dr. Deok-Ho Kim

Dr. Deok-Ho Kim

Perkins Coie announced that it has presented its $20,000 “Award for Discovery” to Dr. Deok-Ho Kim, assistant professor of bioengineering and a regenerative medicine researcher at the University of Washington.

The award is part of the law firm’s five-year commitment to support translational research at the UW Medicine South Lake Union campus. Each year, from 2007 to 2011, the firm has awarded a $20,000 grant to support a new project to generate data that could be used as a basis for a new and significant research program funded by NIH or other funding agencies. The award to Kim is the fifth in this program.

In his award application, Kim described the difficulties scientists have been facing in trying to regenerate heart tissue to repair damage from heart attacks. Regenerative cells injected directly into the heart have a low survival rate and the body rapidly clears them from the injection site.

Kim hopes to try to overcome these obstacles by pre-conditioning stem cells before they are transplanted into diseased tissue. His plan is to incubate stem cells in an environment that is similar to the biological niche that supports muscle cells in the living heart. This would create a nano-patterned, bioengineered patch for damaged heart muscle. He hopes that pre-conditioning will enhance the survival of the cells, help them turn into the right kinds of heart muscle cells, and remain at the transplant site to enhance the repair of heart tissue.

His research is likely to yield new information on the roles of this stem cell niche in regulating how stem cells are changed into heart muscle cells and in fostering heart muscle regeneration. Dr. Kims goal is to try to establish tissue engineered heart grafts that resemble the normal architecture and function of heart muscle.

Kim is part of the Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine at UW Medicine South Lake Union.

“We are proud to be supporting leading-edge science at the UW Medicine South Lake Union campus,” said Jim Lisbakken, a partner in the firm’s Licensing & Technology practice and chair of the firm’s Life Sciences Practice. “Dr. Kims research could potentially lead to new methods to help patients recover from heart attacks.” Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the developed and developing worlds.

“We are grateful for the support Perkins Coie has extended over the past four years to bring new ideas to fruition in medical research. Dr. Kim joins UW Medicine Perkins Coie ‘Award for Discovery recipients whose work has been characterized by rigor and innovation in the search for better treatments for common, debilitating diseases. We are pleased to see Dr. Kims outstanding abilities recognized by the latest award,” said Dr. John Slattery, vice dean of research and graduate education at the UW School of Medicine.

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