The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has renewed funding for the University of Pittsburgh Department of Bioengineering’s Cardiovascular Bioengineering Training Program (CBTP). The program – which educates students who are interested in cardiovascular research and pursuing a PhD in bioengineering – will receive nearly $1.9 million over the next 5 years.
McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine faculty member Sanjeev Shroff, PhD, the Distinguished Professor of and Gerald McGinnis Chair in Bioengineering at Pitt, established the CBTP in 2005 to train bioengineering doctoral students for careers in basic and/or translational cardiovascular research. By renewing the grant, the NIH has guaranteed funding until 2022.
“A unique feature of the program is that students are exposed first-hand to real-world clinical problems requiring bioengineering input for their solution,” said Dr. Shroff, who serves as principal investigator for the program. “The program is designed to provide students both breadth and depth in engineering and biological sciences and also includes a formal exposure to biostatistics, bioethics, and professional and career development issues. Upon completion, students are well-versed in both basic and clinical aspects of cardiovascular engineering and are well prepared for rewarding careers in a growing field.”
Student research within Pitt’s CBTP has focused on a variety of problems, ranging from basic science to novel biomedical technologies for the diagnosis and/or treatment of critical cardiovascular health issues. Examples of these research projects include:
- Regulation of cardiac muscle contraction by cardiac troponin-I phosphorylation
- Mechanical processes and pathways that underlie heart morphogenesis
- Molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying vaso-occlusion in Sickle Cell Disease
- Role of Profilin-1 in angiogenesis
- Externally regulated synthetic capillary system for promoting angiogenesis
- Rapidly degrading synthetic materials for tissue-engineered vascular grafts
- Extracellular matrix (ECM) scaffolds for heart tissue regeneration
- Adipose stem cell-based treatments for abdominal aortic aneurysms
- Improved biocompatibility of implanted cardiovascular devices to reduce rejection
- Coacervate-based controlled delivery of growth factors for cardiac repair
- Thermal strain imaging for non-invasive identification of vulnerable atherosclerotic plaques
The NIH National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute provides funding for the program and has designated the grant a National Research Service Award. These awards are granted to training programs in disciplines that address the nation’s biomedical, behavioral, and clinical research needs with an emphasis on producing diverse pool of highly trained scientists.
Each student in the CBTP receives a monthly stipend, tuition scholarship, health insurance, and a travel budget.
About the Cardiovascular Bioengineering Training Program
The goal of the Cardiovascular Bioengineering Training Program (CBTP) is to provide a solid foundation upon which to build a productive independent career in cardiovascular bioengineering. This is accomplished via a highly coordinated and mentored interdisciplinary training program with a combination of core and elective courses, clinical internships, research activities, and specialized training opportunities to enhance professional and career development. There are three focus areas of this program:
- Basic understanding and quantitative characterization of native (normal and pathological conditions) and perturbed (i.e., with deployment of man-made devices or constructs) cardiovascular function at various levels of organization (cell, tissue, whole organ)
- Imaging for functional assessment at various levels of organization (cell, tissue, whole organ)
- Design and optimization of artificial devices and constructs (mechanical, tissue-engineered, and hybrid)