New Funding Announced For Ottawa Doctor to Explore On-the-Spot Heart Repairs Using Futuristic Hand-Held Technology

May 13, 2019

Dr. Emilio Alarcon
Dr. Alarcon is Director of the Bio-nanomaterials Chemistry and Engineering Laboratory (BnCE) at the
University of Ottawa Heart Institute

Scientist in the Division of Cardiac Surgery, and Director of the Bio-Nanomaterials Chemistry and Engineering Laboratory at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute Dr. Emilio Alarcon has been named a recipient of nearly $200,000 in research funding from the New Frontiers in Research Fund’s 2018 exploration stream competition. The New Frontiers in Research Fund is a newly launched federal government program established to fund international, interdisciplinary, fast-breaking and high-risk research.

The announcement of the 2018 exploration stream of recipients was made earlier today, Monday, May 13. Dr. Alarcon will receive $197,397 over two years to fund his project titled “Hand-held bio-printing device for customized on-the-spot heart repair.” What follows below is a short description outlining the scope of Dr. Alarcon’s project.

About the Project

Heart-related diseases rank first in worldwide mortality with over 17 million deaths in 2016. In Canada, heart diseases are the number one cause of premature death, with about 2.4 million Canadians age 20 and older living with diagnosed heart disease. From those, a large number (approximately 600,000 people), develop heart failure. This number increases on average by 50,000 cases per year. Conventional treatments such as drugs or cell therapies do not cure failing hearts, which need specialized healthcare, surgical interventions, and devices that cost $2.8 billion/year or more to the Canadian healthcare system. Materials able to conduct electricity in the form of heart patches have proven useful for improving heart function after a heart attack in animal models. However, those “electro-conductive” heart patches are prepared in a non-customized form (i.e., not specific to shape and size of the area in the heart that needs to heal). This makes them unpractical for use in humans where the damaged parts of the hearts will be different in each patient.

In this project, Dr. Alarcon and his team will use gained expertise in developing novel light-activated flexible materials and “electro-conductive” fibres to produce the first customizable on-the-spot heart patch. This innovative technology will be a leap forward for 3D printing in medicine and in treating failing hearts. It will combine on-the-spot delivery and formation of a heart patch directly on the damaged heart, allowing surgeons to apply the patch directly to the damaged region, independently of its size, shape, and location. Our heart patch will provide a new therapeutic tool for recovering heart function, save thousands of lives in Canada and millions of dollars in healthcare costs.

Read the University of Ottawa release.

To learn more about Dr. Emilio Alarcon and the work of his team in the Bio-Nanomaterials Chemistry and Engineering Laboratory, watch this short video. The video is the first instalment in a new series called Meet Our Researchers, which introduces Heart Institute researchers and profiles their work.

For more information, please contact:

Leigh B. Morris
Communications Officer
University of Ottawa Heart Institute
613-796-7000 ext. 19051 (office)
613-316-6409 (cell)

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