The miniPUMP mimics the real organ and could help speed heart disease cures
May 10, 2022 — Getting a close-up view of the heart as it works ― vital to better understanding and treating cardiovascular problems ― has been the focus of scientists worldwide. Arvind Agarwal, chair of FIU’s Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering and director of the Advanced Materials Engineering Research Institute, is part of an interdisciplinary research team that has made a significant breakthrough with the development of a miniature heart chamber, created from nanoengineered parts and human heart tissue.
Heart disease remains the number one killer of men and women in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The researchers believe the living heart replica will enable them to closely study the heart muscle and changes that occur due to disease or high blood pressure. The replica also will test the effectiveness and safety of new treatments and drugs in development ― without putting humans at risk. The researchers expect it to spur the development of other lab-based organs, including kidneys and lungs. Their findings have been published in Science Advances.
The project is part of the National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center in Cellular Metamaterials (CELL-MET), a multi-institutional center that is aimed at transforming cardiovascular care. Agarwal, whose research has centered on nanomechanics and nanomaterials, joined other engineers, biologists and geneticists from Harvard Medical School, Columbia University, the University of Michigan and other institutions in the Boston University-led CELL-MET study.
“The complexities of the heart muscle have made previous methods of study difficult,” Agarwal said. “But the miniaturized heart chamber, using sophisticated printing techniques and stem-cell technology to create heart tissue, has resulted in something that mechanically responds like the human heart does while pumping blood through the body.”
The tiny components of the miniPUMP are printed using two-photon direct laser writing, which uses light to turn liquid resin into a solid. Even more precise than 3D printing, two-photon direct laser writing allows the team to work with components as small as sub-microns, which are tinier than a dust particle. The miniPUMP uses similar technology to the scaffolding in artificial implantable patches that Agarwal and the team are working on to repair hearts damaged by heart attacks or disease.
“It’s very exciting to see the impact that FIU is having on the future of medicine and wellness, and we are proud to be part of the CELL-MET project. Our involvement reflects our faculty excellence in research,” said John L. Volakis, dean of the College of Engineering and Computing.
The research team is working on refining and manufacturing the miniPUMP.