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Heartened by Explorer Grant win

Monday 8 April 2019 12:33pm

Dr Steven Cui (2019)
Dr Xiaolin Cui (Steven).

Otago researcher, Dr Xiaolin Cui (Steven), is thrilled to have his research aspirations supported by a $150,000 grant from the Health Research Council of New Zealand. He is one of fifteen health researchers awarded an HRC Explorer Grant nationally.

The grant is made available annually, aiming to support transformative research ideas that stand a good chance of revolutionising how we manage New Zealanders’ health. “I so appreciate having this support” says Dr Cui. “Deep down, every researcher hopes to innovate and make a significant difference in people’s lives, and we can’t do that without exploring novel treatments”.

Dr Cui will be researching the use of synthetic stem cells as a new approach to treating myocardial infarction (or heart attacks). Synthetics offer several advantages over conventional stem cell therapies and avoid many of the known complications. They have the ability to recruit and activate on-site stem cells through paracrine signaling, facilitate cell activation and proliferation, and inhibit apoptotic cell death.

A novel degradable hydrogel carrier system will be used to deliver the synthetic stem cells to damaged heart tissue. The hydrogel is injectable through minimally invasive surgery, and is able to be “tuned” to degrade at various timeframes, enabling its withdrawal from the site of damage as regenerated tissue takes its place.

The carrier system is an innovation of the Christchurch Regenerative Medicine and Tissue Engineering (CReaTE) research group. Group colleagues, Associate Professor Tim Woodfield and Dr Khoon Lim will join Dr Cui on this research project.