The American Heart Association has awarded Janet Zoldan, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering, with a four-year $308,000 National Scientist Development Grant to treat peripheral artery disease (PAD).
Narrowing of the arteries and circulation issues associated with PAD cause pain and may ultimately develop into critical limb ischemia. Critical limb ischemia is a condition where wounds do not heal, leading to tissue death and potentially requiring limb amputation. With 8.5 million Americans affected, PAD is a developing health problem, and is expected to grow as risk factors such as obesity and diabetes rise.
Patients with such risk factors are not good candidates for invasive revascularization procedures because they may lack graft-appropriate tissue or may suffer postoperative complications.
Zoldan proposes personalized and controlled tissue engineered neovascularization as a minimally invasive, clinically viable alternative for PAD therapy. Her approach combines patient-specific induced pluripotent stem cells with injectable biomaterials tailored to promote vascular network formation in vivo that will integrate with host tissue.
Through this study, Zoldan and her team will gain knowledge to advance the field of stem cell technology and contribute to improving patient quality of life with the development of effective PAD and other cardiovascular disease treatments.
Beyond that, patient-specific vascular networks are also a necessary building block for tissue engineering of whole, autologous organs for transplantation, where the transplant recipient is also the donor. Autologous organ transplants would eliminate the need for life-long immunosuppressant drugs required with allogeneic organ transplants, where the recipient is different from the donor, and reduce the impact of organ donor shortages.