Prof. Dvir obtained a Ph.D (2008) in Biotechnology Engineering from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel. His Ph.D research was supervised by Prof. Smadar Cohen and focused on cardiac tissue engineering and regeneration. Prof. Dvir continued his postdoctoral studies in the laboratory of Prof. Robert Langer in the Department of Chemical Engineering at MIT. His postdoc research focused on nanotechnological strategies for engineering complex tissues. On October 2011 Prof. Dvir was recruited by the Department of Biotechnology and the center for Nanotechnology at Tel Aviv University to establish the Laboratory for Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine. On 2013, Prof. Dvir has also joined the newly established Department of Materials Science and Engineering at TAU. Since November 2015, he has been an Associate Prof. at the Department of Biotechnology. His lab at Tel-Aviv University focuses on:
- Microfluidics-based tissue engineering. Recreating stem cell niches, microfluidics bioreactors for tissue engineering.
- Nanotechnological strategies for engineering thick cardiac tissue.
- Engineering a 3D neuronal network for spinal cord and brain regeneration.
- Fabrication of Nanoelectronics/engineered tissue hybrids.
- Developing smart delivery systems that recruit stem cells to defected organs.
The following was paraphrased from a conversation with Prof. Tal Dvir on February 20th, 2018.
Can you explain the heart patches that your lab is developing? What stage of clinical development are they at?
The heart patches are made to be permanent, after you transplant them onto the scar tissue they will integrate with the healthy part of the heart. We are currently working on pigs to show that we can regenerate damaged hearts before we move them into clinical trials on humans.
We are working on different levels of this project, there is the basic level where we take the hydrogels (polymers made of natural material) with engineered cells and implant or inject them directly into the muscle of the heart to repair it. In these hydrogels we create blood vessels that we grow from the patient’s own cells that nourish the tissue with blood and oxygen. We are also developing more advanced patches that integrate electronics that can monitor and regulate the function of the patch.
Your lab is also engineering 3D neuronal networks for spinal cord and brain regeneration, what applications might this one day have for neurodegenerative diseases?
We have a platform where we get tissue from a patient which we manipulate to become a personalized hydrogel. We then grow iPS cells (induced pluripotent stem cells) from the patient and integrate them into the hydrogel to create personalized tissue implants. We are currently using this to regenerate injured spinal cords in small animals and we have had great results so far.
We also started working on Parkinson’s disease where we have created implants using dopamine producing neurons grown from patient’s own cells and will be transplanting them in mice. A few labs around the world are doing this but where we differ is that we also put them into personalized hydrogels which provide a supportive micro-environment for the cells that we believe will allow the cells to better survive the transplantation process. They are injectable and will hopefully be used to regenerate the diseased brain.
Can you also explain the smart delivery systems that you use?
In our patches we also integrate controlled release systems that can release different types of growth factors that spur the development of stem cells and help organize the cells into functional tissue. This is just in animals but we are hoping to go forward with these implants in spinal cord injuries in humans in the next couple of years.
What excites you the most in the field of tissue engineering?
I think one of the most exciting areas is 3D bio-printers that enable people to print patches for transplantation. We can already grow tissues from single cells and bio-materials, and with certain organs like cartilage and bone this is already in the clinic, but in the future people will print whole organs for replacement. I believe we will see this with organs like livers, kidneys and maybe hearts within the next 10 years. A lot of the technology for that is already here we just need to perfect the process, but we will one day be able to print organs directly in a hospital for transplantation.
Watch this video to learn about the heart patches that Prof. Dvir’s lab has created…