Category: Working Groups

Working group 5

Application of biomaterials in cardiology

Myocardial ischemia is leading cause of heart failure in all over the world. Following myocardial infarction the irreparable loss or dysfunction of cardiomyocytes occurs due to sudden deprivation of oxygen supply to the heart. Heart has very limited regeneration capacity as most of the myocytes seems to be terminally differentiated, only small fraction of myocytes retain the capacity to replicate. Until now, drug therapy, percutaneous cardiology procedures (coronary artery angioplasty performed with balloons and stents), electrophysiological approaches (pacemakers and implantable defibrillators), surgical procedures (coronary artery bypass grafts, ventricular remodeling, dynamic cardiomyoplasty), organ transplantation and mechanical circulatory assistance devices are used as treatment when hearts are irreparably damaged.

It becomes evident that is a need to develop more effective, less invasive, therapeutic strategies for heart failure. Stem cells based therapies give new hope in the field of regenerative medicine, as stem cells have ability to differentiate into same as well as different tissue types and to regenerate themselves without losing their differentiation potential. This property of differentiation is being explored for the regeneration of several damaged tissues.

From Stem Cell Therapy to Tissue Engineering

It seems important to provide a safe environment (niche) for cell homing, proliferation and differentiation. The use of antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, angiogenic and antiapoptotic products may give better survival of transplanted cells.

Cardiac ECM is mainly composed of collagens, elastins, fibronectin, laminin and signaling molecules which give structural strength to the ventricles. After myocardial infarction, not only the changes affect the contractile element of the myocardium (cardiomyocytes) but also the extracellular matrix. Cardiomyocyte death and scar formation, which are caused by coronary artery occlusion, modulate cardiac remodeling: ischemic heart disease may progress inducing geometric alteration of the ventricular cavity (from elliptical to spherical), heart dilatation is a negative symptom in the evolution of heart failure patients, related with morbidity and mortality.

Natural and synthetic biomimetic scaffolds are in development, the main goal of these tissue engineered materials is to allow cell attachment and migration, deliver and retain cells and biochemical factors and enable diffusion of vital cell nutrients. These porous materials should offer a suitable microenvironment needed for cell survival and function, 3D scaffolds should mimic the natural extracellular environment features sufficiently as they would in vivo, cells in tissue are surrounded by a dynamic cell type-dependent extracellular matrix responsive to their environment. After initial development of “in-vitro tissue engineering” approaches, progress has been made by the development of “in-vivo tissue engineering” technologies, a biomimetic approach where the body is the own bioreactor. This in-vivo approach represents a new hope for the creation of bioartificial organs and biomimetic tissues, like elastomeric semi-bioabsorbable “Cardiopatch” to be used as bioartificial myocardium.

Working group 4

Brain

This working group will consist of cell biologists, cardiologists and neurologists, involved in both preclinical and clinical stem cell trials. The major goal is to bring together experts within one field (cardiology or neurology) thus aiming to reduce the defragmentation of the research across Europe.

The overall aim of this WG in the field of Neurology is to create a network of clinical and pre-clinical centers in Europe to accelerate the development of stem cell trials for neurodegenerative diseases.

The main steps to achieve this will be:

  • Share experiences with the European centers able to develop GLP animal models on safety and efficacy (even in large animals) of different adult stem cells (MSCs, hematopoietic stem cells and neural stem cells), different routes of delivery, imaging modalities and new biomaterials for combined application with stem cells for neurodegenerative diseases. This approach will help achieve a standardization of transplant procedures
  • Identify the European clinical centers able to support GCP compliant trials and expert in clinical trials for neurodegenerative disease to share experience and compare protocols, benefits, obstacles and strategies to progress to a standardization of clinical protocols.
  • Submission of the multidisciplinary protocols to Horizon grants

Working group 1

Processing of biomaterials

The application of biomaterials in the cardiology and neurology fields have given so far, a substantial contribute to the development of implantable and interfaceable devices dedicated to the restoration of a number of cardiac and neural functions. But the use of biomaterials in the context of cardiac or nervous system regenerative medicine is still in its infancy with expected impact both in the framework of tissue engineering, drug delivery and imaging approaches. In parallel with amazing progress in cultivation and use of stem cells, modern biotechnology brings the possibility to obtain numerous types of materials which can support stem cells and help to overcome some major obstacles in the field (e.g. 3D cultures, tissue regeneration guidance, improve the regeneration environment).

The main objective of WG1 is to improve the processing of biomaterials, taking in account the specific needs for application in regenerative cardiology and neurology. This COST Action aims to enhance the cooperation between biomaterials scientists and engineers and establish a link with partners active in stem-cell research and medicine working in the field of cardiovascular and nervous tissue.

The main steps to achieve this are:

  • to exchange knowledge and obtain up-to-date report about current state of the art regarding biomaterials in cardiology and neurology;
  • define new concepts about materials that can be exchanged between fields;
  • exchange experience in processing of biomaterials between cardiology and neurology.
DRG ganglion neurons in microfluidic cultures
Polyester electrospun fibres (preferentially aligned to promote axonal growth)