The study was funded by UNC’s Research Opportunities Initiative, a program founded by the North Carolina General Assembly.
“The (Research Opportunities Iniatitive) was a very strategic infusion of funding into areas that are of importance to the state,” said Erin Hopper, research director for the UNC system.
The research, led by associate professor Ke Cheng of N.C. State, focuses on regenerative medicine — specifically the benefits of artificial cardiac stem cells in comparison with natural stem cell therapy.
“We took the cargo and the shell of the stem cell and packaged it into a biodegradable particle,” Cheng said in an N.C. State press release detailing the research project.
Hopper said the project applied engineering principles to medical problems, as part of the Research Opportunities Initiative. The research was made possible by a strong departmental relationship between N.C. State and UNC, she said.
“Stem cell therapy provides an approach for diseases that can’t be cured by pharmaceutical means,” Cheng said.
He said weaknesses associated with natural stem cell therapy can include: the provocation of an immune response, the growth of tumors on the stem cells later in their life cycle and difficulty in the processing, manufacturing and storage of stem cells used.
The press release said natural stem cells are very fragile, so the storage process is complex.