UW News

June 14, 2010

UW Medicine researchers receive $12.6 million grant to fund work in stem cells, cardiovascular repair

A group of researchers led by Dr. Charles “Chuck” Murry, UW professor of pathology and bioengineering, has received a $12.6 million grant to fund research in stem cells and cardiovascular repair. The grant will be funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health.

“We’ve mounted an ambitious program to regenerate the heart and to get to clinical trials,” said Murry, principal investigator in the study. Murry is director of the Center for Cardiovascular Biology at UW and co-director of UW Medicine’s Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine.

Over the next five years, an interdisciplinary team of scientists will work on three “pre-clinical” research projects that will move scientists closer to conducting clinical trials. The first project will focus on the biology of graft vascularization.

“To grow active heart muscle, we need to grow a rich blood supply with both capillaries and large arteries that feed the muscle. So we must remuscularize the heart by simultaneously revascularizing it,” Murry said. “We hypothesize that by enhancing both microvascular growth such as capillaries and the formation of conducting arteries we will be more successful in complete cardiac repair,” Murry said.

The second project will explore the electrophysiology of stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes and their integration and electrical effects after transplantation into the damaged heart.

“We will look at the electrical aspects of repairing the heart by introducing new cells that will generate pacemaker and working muscle cells. We need to know how to electrically coordinate the mechanics of our new tissue and the heart without disturbing its rhythm.”

The third project will investigate the role played by adult stem cells (marrow stromal cells) in promoting the survival of transplanted heart muscle cells, the prevention of their rejection and the growth of new blood vessels into the transplanted area.

Other researchers on the project are Daniel Bowen-Pope, professor of pathology; Michael LaFlamme, assistant professor of pathology; William Mahoney, assistant professor of pathology; Stephen Schwartz, professor of pathology; Elina Minami, assistant professor of medicine/cardiology, L. Fernando Santana, associate professor of physiology and biophysics, and Beverly Torok-Storb, member and associate program head of the Transplantation Biology Program at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.