Vahid Serpooshan: Repairing Heart with Tissue Engineering

Vahid Serpooshan did his BSc and MSc in Materials Science and Engineering at Sharif University (Tehran, Iran, 1998-2003) and his PhD in biomaterials and tissue engineering at McGill University (Montreal, Canada, 2007-2011). His Ph.D. thesis research focused on the design and optimization of scaffolding biomaterials for bone tissue engineering applications. Following his Ph.D., Dr. Serpooshan worked for 7 years at Stanford University School of Medicine as Postdoctoral Fellow (Pediatric Cardiology) and Instructor (Stanford Cardiovascular Institute). At Stanford, Dr. Serpooshan’s training and research were mainly centered on developing a new generation of engineered cardiac patch devices to repair damaged heart tissue following myocardial infarction (heart attack). The engineered patch was successfully tested in mouse and pig models and is now in preparation for clinical trials. He also worked on enabling technologies for human-machine hybrid cardiac tissue, using 3D bioprinting to assemble complex arrays of interfaces between synthetic and biological materials. In 2018, Dr. Vahid Serpooshan joined Emory University and Georgia Institute of Tech as Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Pediatrics, where his multidisciplinary team is now working on a variety of 3D bioprinting-based tissue engineering and disease modeling projects. Vahid Serpooshan will be sharing his experiences at our virtual event 3D Printing for Your Heart.

Jenny: When was the first encounter you had with 3D printing?

Vahid: My first experience was during my postdoctoral training at the Stanford University Cardiovascular Institute, when we received a prestigious NIH Director’s Pioneer Award to work on cardiac tissue bioprinting. Tapping into my multidisciplinary background in materials science and biomaterials, cardiovascular cell biology, and stem cell engineering, this exciting opportunity empowered me and our group to work on developing novel and innovative tissue engineering approaches in the field of cardiovascular medicine.    

Jenny: What inspired you to start your journey in 3D bioprinting?

Vahid: After starting my independent research group in 2018, as an Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University, I continued to utilize 3D bioprinting as a core technology of the lab, to tackle even more challenging problems in the field of cardiovascular medicine. We also further expanded our scope to other fields, including the modeling of human brain development and cancer. Particularly, the lack of precise and robust in vitro platforms to model development and underlying diseases inspired us to focus the majority of our research on modeling a variety of congenital/pediatric diseases and their treatment. 

Jenny: Who inspired you the most along this journey?

Vahid: The most inspiring and rewarding factor has certainly been the family of our patients; the parents of sick children who come find us in the conferences and seminars, show their sincere appreciation and gratitude and encourage us to keep up and move forward.  

Jenny: What motivates you the most for your work? 

Vahid: See above. 

Jenny: What is the biggest obstacle in your line of work?

Vahid: Achieving biological function from large-scale bioprinted tissue constructs. We have been working intensively on achieving this goal by incorporating functional vasculature and enhancing our perfusion culture to mimic the native heart tissue. Further, generating more mature and functional cells and incorporating them in the bioprinting processes at higher densities have helped us to move towards the fabrication of functional cardiovascular tissues. 

Jenny: What do you think is (are) the biggest challenge(s) in 3D bioprinting?

Vahid: Some of the major challenges, specifically in the field of cardiovascular tissue bioprinting, include 1) maintaining the functionality of cardiac cells in bioprinted constructs, while simultaneously achieving adequate levels of printing fidelity and resolution; and 2) creation of dense and functional vascular network within large-scale printed heart tissues and maintaining the dynamic flow culture in the in vitro and in vivo conditions.

Jenny: What advice would you give to a smart driven college student in the “real world”? What bad advices you heard should they ignore?

Vahid: For those interested in cardiac tissue bioprinting, one very important area that will largely define the success of this field in the future is the cardiac tissue-specific bioinks. There are currently not systematic works done in this area. Considering the very specific and unique requirements that exist for printing functional heart cells, designing and developing new and more effective biomaterials that can maintain cardiac cell viability, connectivity, and eventually their function will be of great significance.  

A Call to the Heart-A Perspective on the State of 3D Bioprinting of Cardiac Tissue

Bioprint Heart Components: Fluidform3D CEO Mike Graffeo (Video/Podcast)

Cardiac 3D Printing: The Heart of the Matter

Bioprinting Vasculatures (2022, on demand)

3D Bioprinting Vasculatures (2021, on demand)