/news-events/news-archive/2016/

Biomedical Engineering Professor Receives Grant from the American Heart Association

Dr. Bin Wang is an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Widener University.

Dr. Bin Wang, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Widener University, received a grant for $132,000 from the American Heart Association over the course of two years to work on research to enhance stem cell therapy by a targeted delivery system to improve the survival of stem cells and to improve cardiac function.

Wang is working in collaboration with Temple University and a consultant there, Dr. Mohammad F. Kiani, on the grant.

Targeted delivery systems have been a part of Wang’s research since he was a doctoral student. He took a special interested in studying cardiovascular disease, because it is the number one cause of death in the Western hemisphere and there hasn’t been much success in treating it.  

“We want to rebuild cells in the heart, so that those who have suffered from cardiovascular disease can have full use of it,” Wang said. “What many people don’t know is that the heart cell grows extremely slowly and once it is matured it doesn’t regenerate, so any form of heart failure means that cells have died, and they cannot grow back. A bypass or stent can keep patients alive, but it can’t cure them.”

Many people think the best way to grow back cells would be using stem cells which can turn into many types of cells, including heart cells, since they can be found a lot of places in the body to help fight a disease. However, the diseased heart is different all together as it has a very harsh microenvironment. .

According to Wang, there has been a lot of improvement in this area, but nothing that has truly focused on the microenvironment of the disease site of the heart. “When a new cell or stem cell is introduced to the diseased heart it faces a number of problems, one being that there is not enough oxygen,” he said. “Stem cells tend to die too fast to actually do any work or repair damage in the heart.”

Wang and his research team wanted to find a way to introduce stem cells so that they don’t die. “In order to do so we have to look at ways to manage the microenvironment,” Wang said. “Once we are able to control the environment we can introduce the stem cell safely. In order for the stem cell to survive in the heart it must – integrate into the tissue, receive nutrition to survive, and not let anything become hostile.”

This is a different focus than previous research approaches as researchers have been focused on separate pathway – not all of them at once. Wang’s research looks at all pathways, as well as the environment.

“Each of the pathways communicates, and we need to focus on the whole environment of the heart,” he said. “It’s a benefit we have as biomedical engineers, we are not trained to find the pathway – the biologists and physicians have that expertise. What we do is engineering the delivery vehicle. The beauty of the delivery system is that different types of drugs can go to their targeted locations; and the right combination can change the overall environment which will help the stem cells to survive the harsh microenvironment in the diseased heart and guide the stem cells to fulfill their destiny of regenerating heart cells.”

The delivery approach Wang has been working on would reduce side effects and target a specific location in the heart. He is currently in the process of determining the location for each of the drugs by mimicking white blood cells and allowing the drugs to penetrate through to get into the tissue where they can safely help the cells grow.  

Wang is also identifying three drugs that are already available and can be used in the delivery system. The research team is not only testing to see the effects of the drug, but also to make sure they go to the correct location. They will study the effects to see if there are changes in the heart and test each delivery system individually before doing all three together.

The long term goal is to develop a novel therapeutic strategy of stem cell therapy which may rebuild myocardial tissue in the infarcted site.

Wang started teaching at Widener since 2011. He received his PhD in biomedical engineering from Temple University and his master’s in biomedical engineering from the University of Tennessee. He is a member of the Biomedical Engineering Society, American Heart Association, and American Physiological Society.

Widener University is a private, metropolitan university that connects curricula to social issues through civic engagement. Dynamic teaching, active scholarship, personal attention, leadership development and experiential learning are key components of the Widener experience. A comprehensive doctorate-granting university, Widener is comprised of eight schools and colleges that offer liberal arts and sciences, professional and pre-professional curricula leading to associate, baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral degrees. Visit the university website, www.widener.edu.

###