Italian Biomedical Researchers Visit Miller School to Discuss Collaboration Opportunities

A delegation of Italian scientists and biomedical engineering specialists visited the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine on October 1 to explore potential multi-disciplinary collaborations in nanotechnology, tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.

“We need a collaborative approach to solve the complex problems now facing medicine,” said Paolo Di Nardo, Professor and Director of the Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Cardiology, Center of Regenerative Medicine at the University of Rome Tor Vergata. “I am committed to applying the best technology for my patients.”

“This visit is a very promising beginning for collaboration,” said Richard J. Cote, M.D., Director of the Dr. John T. Macdonald Foundation Biomedical Nanotechnology Institute at the University of Miami (BioNIUM), which hosted the visiting delegation, including Gloria Marina Bellelli, Consul General of Italy in Miami.

“We believe that cooperation between our countries in medical research and technology is very important,” said Bellelli. “We are excited about the opportunities to move forward together.”

Other participants included Fabio De Furia, executive vice president, Miami Scientific Italian Community, a nonprofit that fosters collaboration and technology transfer. The event was co-sponsored by the University of Miami Clinical and Translational Science Institute.

“Dr. Di Nardo has been studying potential heart regeneration strategies for more than 20 years and is now on the leading edge of applying biomedical technology to cardiac disorders,” said Cote, who is Professor and Joseph R. Coulter Jr. Chair of the Department of Pathology; Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology; and Chief of Pathology, Jackson Memorial Hospital.

At the session, Jean-Pierre Bardet, Ph.D., Dean of the University of Miami College of Engineering, emphasized the importance of cross-disciplinary collaboration. “The development of nanotechnology has many potential applications in medicine, and we are working with the Miller School of Medicine to develop these tools,” he said.

Speaking to Miller School and College of Engineering students and faculty, Di Nardo pointed to the challenge of repairing damage to myocardial tissue. “The muscle of the heart needs a specific cellular architecture to function properly,” he said. “We have been looking at how to manufacture a scaffold to support stem cells to produce healthy new tissue.”

In his presentation on “Novel Instructive Biomaterials for 3D Bioprinting,” Di Nardo said today’s 3D printing technology could be used to produce layer after layer of living cells on a bioactive paper template. “This approach to bioengineering tissues would also have many applications besides organ repair and replacement,” he added.

Ashutosh Agarwal, Ph.D., assistant professor of biomedical engineering and of pathology at the Miller School, agreed, noting that “The ability to sustain cells outside the body for an extended period of time would allow researchers to test drugs more quickly, accelerating the bench to bedside process.”

Academic collaboration at the international level can also facilitate the commercialization of innovative technologies, said Alessia Fornoni, M.D., Ph.D., professor of medicine, Division of Nephrology and Hypertension, and Diabetes Research Institute
Director and Chair, Peggy and Harold Katz Family Drug Discovery Center. “One of our goals is to facilitate bringing these new technologies to the domestic and international market.”

The University of Miami’s nanotechnology research enterprise, BioNIUM, was established in the UM Life Science & Technology Park with funding from a $7.5 million grant from the Dr. John T. Macdonald Foundation. Its mission includes detection of disease at the earliest possible time, delivery of treatment at the right place and at the right time, and restoration of tissue and organ function through innovative approaches.

“The potential of bionanotechnology to transform detection, treatment, and prevention of serious disease cannot be overstated. And, as we heard today, the promise of using nanotechnology to restore lost and damaged function is the next frontier, one we are actively pursuing through new initiatives in BioNIUM,” Cote said. “The ability to structure materials and devices at the molecular scale has the potential for enormous breakthroughs in medical research and clinical care.”

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