Miller School Awarded NIH Grant for Stem Cell Research

Stem cell researchers at the Miller School have received a grant from the NIH that will greatly accelerate their breakthrough findings in the arena of heart disease. The team, led by Joshua M. Hare, M.D., director of the Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute at the Miller School, has been awarded a $1 million grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the NIH to study cardiac stem cells.

With Hare, Alan Heldman, M.D., professor of medicine in the Cardiovascular Division, Juan Pablo Zambrano, M.D., associate professor of medicine in the Cardiovascular Division, and Ian McNiece, Ph.D., director of experimental and clinical therapies at the Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute, make up the rest of the team.

Hare, the Louis Lemberg Professor of Medicine in the Cardiovascular Division, says the award “shows great support for our stem cell program.” The research revolves around developing new strategies for cardiac stem cell therapy. Hare says the grant, titled the Cardiac Translational Research Implementation Plan (C-TRIP), puts their research on the “fast track.”

Until now, Hare and his team have focused research and three clinical trials on stem cells derived from bone marrow (mesenchymal stem cells). With this two-year grant, the team is now turning its attention to adult stem cells that come from the heart itself.

“Studying cardiac stem cells, derived directly from the heart, is a natural extension of our many years of work with bone marrow derived mesenchymal stem cells,” Heldman says. “As we come to understand the mechanisms of potential benefit from cell therapy, we also are moving forward with translational approaches to bring new treatments to our patients.”

Translational research is traditionally the most challenging field, but “that is what’s needed to get basic science into the clinic,” adds Zambrano. “This grant specifically allows us to focus on this process with these cardiac stem cells and more quickly and efficiently devise a clinical trial to treat heart disease.”

“Our program in cardiac cell therapy,” says McNiece, “has developed novel approaches for heart repair which incorporates two different stem cell populations that can recapitulate the tissue environment of normal heart tissue.” McNiece believes this grant will “provide necessary resources to move this approach forward and enable clinical testing in patients.”

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