Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) are a growing cause of concern globally, mainly due to sedentary lifestyle encouraged by technology. According to statistics obtained from the World Health Organization (WHO), CVDs are the primary cause of deaths worldwide. It is estimated that more people die from CVDs annually than from any other disease. The WHO further reports that in 2004, CVD was responsible for 17.1 million deaths globally. This represented 29% deaths worldwide. Of these, 7.2 million deaths were due to coronary heart disease, while stroke was associated with 5.7 million deaths. The WHO estimates that by 2030, deaths due to CVD would amount to 23.6 million, most of which will have resulted from stroke and heart disease (“WHO Fact Sheet”).
In sight of this grim reality, it is high time that scientists explore beyond conventional medicine. Current treatment of CVD involves balloon angioplasty, heart transplantation, coronary artery bypass surgery, and repair or replacement of valves. Though widespread, there are always implications and setbacks to these methods. In most cases of heart failure, congenital cardiac anomalies and post-myocardial infarctions, the only possible cure is heart transplantation because “the ischemically injured failing heart lacks contractile myocardium, functional vasculature, and electrical integrity, which has made treatment of the underlying injury untenable” (Ott, Davis and Taylor, 2005). However, due to a severe scarcity of organ donors and the fear of organ rejection, transplantation science needs a full-blown transformation.
Therefore, in this proposal, I put forth possible areas of research in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine that are emerging as promising frontiers in transplantation technology, and how they can be used in tackling the incidence of cardiovascular diseases. Here, I wish to explore new technologies in tissue engineering and discuss how I will approach my research objectives for postdoctoral studies in this field.
Context and literature review
Most of the current research is focused on tissue engineering to reproduce functional myocardium, heart valves and even the entire heart from the cells of the patient. In the treatment and prevention of heart failure, technologies that induce cardiac repair are being sought after. Therefore, “cell-based” regenerative medicine is the first step in this direction (Ott and Taylor, 2006). “By combining stem and progenitor cells with increasingly complex scaffold materials and culture conditions”, it is possible to create an entirely new organ derived from the patient’s own cells (Song and Ott, 2011). Studies have been done on cardiac stem cells isolated from “uncommitted cardiac progenitor cells” of ventricles. These cells can mature into smooth muscle, endothelial and cardiomyocyte cells that can be used to produce organs or parts of an organ (Ott et al, 2007). In another approach, skeletal myoblasts, myogenic or angiogenic precursors,...