Zhang awarded $448,200 for National Institutes of Health heart disease research
Zhang received this funding for her research project titled “Maturation Strategies for Engineered Human Cardiac Microtissues” which aims to develop a 3D mini cardiac tissue model with adult heart-like physiological properties, which will significantly advance the fields of human cardiotoxicity screening, disease modeling and new treatment development for patients with cardiovascular diseases.
This model will be a powerful tool for new drug development to treat heart disease and can help screen drug-induced cardiotoxicity for specific patients and test the effectiveness of new drug treatment without using animal models.
"This funding not only supports our research in developing predictive preclinical models to accelerate the discovery of new therapies for heart diseases but also enables us to offer valuable professional training opportunities for our students at The University of Akron," said Zhang. "They will gain extensive research experiences in the fields of stem cells, natural biomaterials and cardiac tissue engineering."
The 3D mini cardiac tissue model will be microengineered using various types of cardiac cells produced from patient-derived stem cells and biomimetic materials.
"Professor Zhang is one of the leading experts in the field of cardiac tissue engineering," shared Dr. Hossein Tavana, professor and chair of biomedical engineering. "Her training both as a medical doctor and bioengineer uniquely positions her to develop innovative solutions to challenging medical problems."
Dr. Zhang joined UA in 2009. In addition to being a professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, she is a Consultant Staff of Lerner Research Institute at Cleveland Clinic and a joint faculty of the Department of Integrative Medical Science at Northeast Ohio Medical University. Her research is focused on developing translational therapeutics that will improve the treatment of cardiovascular diseases. She has earned ~$6 million in external research funding and her research has been continuously funded by the American Heart Association, National Institutes of Health, and National Science Foundation. Dr. Zhang received the 2018 UA College of Engineering Outstanding Researcher Award, 2022 UA Outstanding Researcher Award and was selected as a Fellow to participate in the 2023-24 Mid-American Conference Academic Leadership Development Program.
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