Alex Jiao, a fifth year Ph.D. student in Assistant Professor Deok-Ho Kim’s lab has received a  NIH F31 Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award. This predoctoral fellowship program supports promising doctoral degree candidates in scientific health related fields.

Alex’s research project is entitled “Nanoscale 3-D Cell Sheet Engineering: A Platform for Studying the Cardiac Microenvironment and Tissue-Level Heart Structure-Function Relationships.”

The structure of native heart tissue is important to heart function, however current methods of engineering tissue cannot recreate natively structured heart tissue. In this project, Alex aims to engineer 3-D human heart tissue using stem cells which are structured like native heart tissue. He will engineer these heart tissues by using a platform developed in the lab which can engineer structured, 3-D tissues without the use of a supporting scaffold. This is particularly useful for tissues like the heart which are very cell-dense. The physiologically structured, scaffold-free engineered heart tissue will thus allow for improvements in drug screening, disease modeling, and provide insights into heart development by providing a more accurate model of the heart to be used for further biological studies.