Texas Children's scientist receives CAREER Award for congenital heart research

Texas Children's Hospital in Houston announces that a researcher in its Pediatric Cardiac Bioengineering Laboratory has earned a National Science Foundation Early Career Development (CAREER) Award for his work in studying the causes of congenital heart disease, heart defects, and the development of tissue engineering therapies using stem cells derived from human amniotic fluid. The award comes with new funding of $450,000 to be spread over a five-year period.

Jeffrey Jacot, Ph.D, director of the Pediatric Cardiac Bioengineering Laboratory at the Congenital Heart Surgery Service at Texas Children's Hospital and an assistant professor of bioengineering at Rice University, submitted work based on two years of previously published studies on the effects of substrate stiffness on maturing heart cells, the mechanical environment of cardiovascular tissues, and the development of heart tissue grown from stem cells taken from the amniotic fluid of patients' mothers. His work with cardiac tissue stems from a 2009 grant from the Virginia and L.E. Simmons Family Foundation Collaborative Research Fund, which promotes research among Texas Medical Center scientists, engineers and doctors who might not otherwise work together.

"I am pleased to be part of the groundbreaking congenital heart research at Texas Children's Hospital," said Dr. Jacot. "We hope this work will lead to the development of living heart tissue that might work to 'patch' or reconstruct hearts with congenital defects."

As a principal investigator on several projects, Jacot works alongside surgeons and radiologists at Texas Children's Hospital and with cardiovascular research laboratories at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) to establish a therapeutically feasible stem cell source and understand how to control growth of new cardiac tissue.

"Dr. Jacot is a talented and highly inventive young member of the biomedical engineering community whose detailed analysis and rationally designed experiments bring a unique approach to the study and treatment of congenital heart disease," said Charles D. Fraser Jr., M.D., surgeon-in-chief and chief of congenital heart surgery at Texas Children's Hospital and professor of surgery at BCM. "Because the regenerative cardiac therapies developed in his lab are grown from amniotic fluid-derived stem cells, they are genetically identical to the child and have potential to grow with the patient with minimal immune response."

Jacot's CAREER Award also includes an interactive exhibition and outreach program for elementary, middle and high school students to be developed in cooperation with the John P. McGovern Museum of Health and Medical Science (MMHM) in Houston. The educational component, which is intended to inspire and help guide the next generation of scientists and engineers, includes field trips and teacher workshops, as well as lectures and problem-based curriculum in systems physiology at Rice.

Source: Texas Children's Hospital

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