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The Washington Research Foundation Fellowship

Shiv Bhandari - Biochemistry, Bioengineering

Shiv Bhandari Eager to pursue a growing curiosity in the mechanics of the heart, I was fortunate to join Dr. Murry’s team at the UW Medicine Department of Pathology. The lab’s focus on regenerative medicine has brought together a passionate group of researchers that are dedicated in developing stem-cell therapies for myocardial infarctions. I am thrilled with the opportunity to culture and differentiate stem cells into active cardiac tissues, and I still get a rush every time I look under the microscope and watch the cells beating.

To help strengthen the newly formed cardiomyocytes, I am currently engineering a device to simulate the mechanical environment of the heart. Improving the contractility of the cardiac tissue will bring tissue engineering closer in developing therapeutic patches to restore the functionality of a damaged heart. Despite the numerous challenges, it is invigorating to apply and integrate biochemistry with the principles of engineering to build and optimize the device.

Researching has been a transformative experience, encouraging me to question and explore the unknown. Being able to apply my education to the forefront of science has substantiated my undergraduate career, and has inspired me to pursue an MD/PhD in cardiology. As a future researcher and a cardiologist, I aim on helping those suffering from the aftermath of a heart attack return to the quality of life we all deserve.

Dr. Murry and his team have been amazing mentors and a tremendous support in helping me bring this ambitious project into a reality. I would like to wholeheartedly thank the Washington Research Foundation for its generous support and encouragement, allowing me to continue my research with energy and fervor.

Mentor: Charles Murry, Pathology

Project Title: Engineering high-performance cardiac tissue by simulating the mechanics of the heart

Abstract: Affecting millions of people globally, the WHO deems myocardial infarctions as the largest of cause of death worldwide. The heart’s weak regenerative capacity leads to scarring of infarcted tissue which reduces cardiac output and poses long-term health consequences. Tissue engineering is a promising outlook in restoring the structural integrity and contractile force of affected areas, where engineered constructs subjugated to mechanical stimuli have demonstrated similar characteristics to native cardiac tissue. To improve construct performance, this project investigates a novel concept that subjugates constructs to the complete mechanical profile experienced by native heart tissue. The device will contain two posts that vary in stiffness where constructs will attach. Upon contracting, constructs will face a resistance by the posts that will simulate the afterload stress against which the ventricular wall contracts to eject blood into the aorta. Constructs will then be stretched to simulate the preload stress that the wall tissue faces as the ventricles fill prior to ejection. By combining the afterload and preload schemes, constructs will experience the entire mechanical profile necessary for complete maturation. The goal is to produce cardiac tissue constructs with a contractile force, electrical conduction velocity and histology at par with native tissue. These tissues can then be employed clinically to replace infarcted areas and improve cardiac output along with the quality of life after a myocardial infarction.