Nowadays, the only cure for patients who survive end-stage heart failure is a heart transplant. As cardiac donors are scarce, there is an urgent need to develop new strategies to repair the diseased heart. One of the most promising is cardiac tissue engineering, in which cells are seeded within biomaterials to promote the assembly of functional cardiac patches. A critical challenge to developing such tissues for clinical use is that the biomaterials widely used today do not recapitulate the cardiac microenvironment. In-vivo, cells reside within a complex microenvironment that provides them with cues to guide their organization into functional tissues.
In her PhD, one of Sharon’s aims was to recapitulate this process in-vitro. She developed novel biomaterials and fabrication techniques to synthetically mimic different aspects of the cardiac microenvironment, demonstrating these materials’ ability to promote the assembly of individual cardiac cells into functional heart tissues, able spontaneously to generate pump function. Furthermore, she developed an entirely new platform for the assembly of 3D cardiac tissues, enabling the generation of mm-thick cardiac tissues that could be used for transplantation in humans. These
were incorporated with a rationally designed built-in vascular network and a controlled-release system of drugs to improve their integration into the heart muscle after transplantation. Sharon’s findings helped advance the field
of cardiac tissue engineering toward clinical translation, and they could also be utilized to advance other engineered tissues, such as liver, lung, and spinal cord tissues.
Sharon is doing her postdoctoral research at Columbia University in the lab of Prof. Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic. The financial support provided by the Ruth Arnon Fellowship will help her pursue her dream of becoming an independent researcher and returning in a few years to one of the leading institutes in Israel.