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The Washington Research Foundation Fellowship

Bryce Johnson, Bioengineering and Computer Science, 2011-12 WRFF

Bryce Johnson photoI began conducting cardiac regenerative medicine research under the direction of Dr. Michael Regnier in autumn quarter of my sophomore year. Since then, I have developed a significant interest in cardiac physiology and its related diseases, the leading causes of death in the United States. I am currently exploring the effects of cell therapy as a therapeutic to prevent heart failure following myocardial infarction, and I will be designing a device to measure mechanics in intact cardiac trabeculae for my Bioengineering senior capstone project. After college, I hope to attend medical school and later specialize in cardiology. Research has allowed me to work with the forefront of medicine, and I could not be more thankful for the support of the Washington Research Foundation, which will allow me to continue this rewarding experience.

Mentor: Michael Reignier, Bioengineering

Project Title: Design of an appartatus to measure mechanical effects of gene and cell therapy in intact cardiac trabeculae from infarcted hearts

Abstract: This project focuses on understanding function loss due to myocardial infarction and ameliorating this loss via cell therapy. Previously, we have found cell therapy to improve contractility and other function in remote myocardium from infarcted hearts. This project aims to design a device to simultaneously measure intracellular calcium handling and contraction in cardiac trabeculae; these measurements will be compared between healthy, infarcted, and cell-injected myocardium. Myocardial infarction will be induced to Fischer 344 male rats. The first experimental group will be injected with cell-growth media only, while the second experimental group will be injected with a solution of media and neonatal rat cardiomyocytes (NRCs). Sham operated rats (pneumothorax only) will serve as a control group. A device will be designed to measure mechanics of intact cardiac trabeculae. A trabecula will be connected between two T-clips, which are then connected to a length adjustment device and a force transducer; these will allow for the adjustment of sarcomere length and the measurement of contractile force in the trabeculae, respectively. A photomultiplier tube produced by IonOptix© will detect calcium release in the cell, allowing us to compare calcium release after infarction and following cell therapy. Observing differences in calcium release and force production between infarcted and cell-injected hearts is the next step in understanding how cell therapy improves cardiac function following infarction. No study has ever looked at how calcium handling changes after cell therapy, so the design of this device is crucial to the advancement of understanding cell therapy as a whole.