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UW Receives Grant To Patch Hearts

Illustration of human heart and circulation.
Wikipedia Photo
Illustration of human heart and circulation.

UW Medicine is moving ahead with clinical trials to repair damaged hearts, thanks to a $10 million grant from a local foundation.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. When a person has a heart attack, one of the arteries gets blocked, often by a clot. Without oxygen, the heart muscle dies off pretty quickly.  

The heart, said Dr. Chuck Murry, “is about the worst organ in the body at repairing itself.”

Murry is interim director of the university’s Institute for Stem Cell Regenerative Medicine.  

“It doesn’t have any ability to grow back muscle,” he explained, “and instead it grows scar tissue in place of the heart muscle.” When that happens, the heart doesn’t function as well anymore.

Murry may have found a way to patch up the heart. In the lab he’s been able to take stem cells and grow them into human heart muscle cells in a petri dish. “We’ve learned how to take those cells and transplant them into the hearts of experimental animals and grow back their hearts, if you will.”

Murry and his colleagues also found that the new heart muscle patch helps prevent heart failure and the need for heart transplants down the road.

The next phase is to test the patch in humans. The institute has received a $10 million grant from the Washington Research Foundation to do just that.

Murry said before the human trials can actually start, the institute needs to work on producing enough cells to begin testing in 2019. 

Year started with KUOW: 1994