Surgeons currently use common industrial materials inside the body to replace damaged body parts. For example, hip implants are made from the same material as golf clubs, and vascular bypasses are often made from the same material as raincoats. However, if we want to replace more complicated body parts such as heart tissue or the spinal cord, we need better materials.
By hijacking Nature’s material-making machines, we can engineer new materials that communicate with our cells to promote healing and regeneration. These new materials work by imitating the natural proteins found inside your body. Just like natural proteins, our engineered proteins contain “instructions” that can be read by cells. Using these new materials, we are working to determine the correct set of instructions that will cause stem cells to differentiate into heart muscle cells to treat heart attack patients and neurons to treat spinal cord injuries.
Professor Heilshorn combines many diverse fields to design new materials that mimic those found in our own bodies. As part of the Stanford Regenerative Medicine Program, Heilshorn is studying how these materials can communicate with cells in order to heal damaged tissue.
This event is free and open to the public. It takes place at the William R. Hewlett Teaching Center.