Researchers Find Novel Therapies in Tissue Engineering

Assistant Professor of biomedical engineering Cheul Cho focuses on regenerative medicine.

The future of the health sciences is quietly taking shape on the sixth floor of Fenster Hall. Biomedical Engineering's Stem Cells and Tissue Engineering Laboratory.

Assistant Professor Cheul Cho, whose focus is on regenerative medicine, received a prestigious Phase I Coulter Foundation Translational Research Award for his work on stem cell technology for the treatment of liver failure. He will receive support for his patent application for an extracorporeal bio-artificial liver assist device with human stem cell-derived hepatocytes for the treatment of liver failure.  His project aims to differentiate human embryonic stem (ES) cells into functional hepatocytes and to evaluate their therapeutic efficacy in a bio-artificial liver (BAL) for the treatment of acute liver failure. Current potential cell-based therapies and extracorporeal BAL devices for the treatment of liver failure are severely limited by the low availability of functional human liver cells, called hepatocytes.

Cho's research focuses on designing a clinically-scaled bio-artificial liver. Approximately 10 percent of the liver mass is necessary to support a patient with acute liver failure, which is a critical limitation for many cell-based therapies for liver failure. Embryonic stem cells are considered a potential source of cells for hepatic therapies due to their limitless capacity for self-renewal and proliferation, and their ability to differentiate into all major cell lineages.  Cho's novel method differentiates embryonic stem cells into hepatocytes with high purity. Incorporating these cell-derived hepatocytes into a device to treat fulminant hepatic failure has improved animal survival, thereby underscoring the cells’ therapeutic potential.

Ali HussainAnother member of the Stem Cells and Tissue Engineering Laboratory, doctoral student Ali Hussain, is part of a team that is developing an alternative therapy to heart transplantation. He has designed and developed a three-dimensional (3-D) vascularized nano-biomaterial construct that can contract with cardiac tissue-like rhythm. The cardiac tissue construct featured nano-fiber architecture by using electrospinning, wherein an electrical charge draws nano-scale fibers from a polymer solution forming a non-woven fibrous matrices that provide scaffolding for tissue regeneration constructs.

Chitosan, a derivative of chitin, was used as the main structural biomaterial for producing the nanofibrous scaffolds. Chitosan is a natural polysaccharide biopolymer that is biocompatible, biodegradable, non-toxic, and cost-effective. The research aims to recreate the cellular and acellular organization of the myocardial tissue in order to achieve a functioning cardiac tissue construct. Furthermore, vascularization of the construct is of utmost importance as the physiologically demanding cardiac tissue is in constant need of oxygen and nutrient perfusion. Vascular tube formation was induced inside the matrix using endothelial cells and it was cellularized with a coculture of specialized heart muscle cells called cardiomyocytes and connective-tissue cells called fibroblasts to mimic in vivo heart tissue.