27 Oct InvivoSciences receives NIH grant for heart technology
Wauwatosa, Wis. – To perfect a technology that allows researchers to test new drugs on tiny rings of beating heart tissue, one needs money. And fortunately for one local company, the federal government is willing to absorb some of the cost of such an endeavor.
To improve its technology, InvivoSciences, LLC, a start-up biotechnology firm based here, will receive $91,490 from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the National Institutes of Health.
The company’s core instrument, developed from research done at Washington University in St. Louis, measures interactions between drug candidates and multiple samples of engineered heart tissue derived from mice.
“Our engineered heart tissues alone can become a major breakthrough in drug discovery,” said Ayla Annac, president and co-founder of Invivo. “Considering that the engineered heart tissues contract, or beat, regularly – just like the heart – for at least four weeks, researchers can conduct multiple experiments or several long-term experiments with the same samples.”
This system will be used first to profile known cardiovascular medications and later to profile a library of 1,045 plant extracts from the Philippines already found to be nontoxic by The National Cancer Institute. The goal will be to identify herbal remedies that could be used to treat cardiovascular diseases.
Dr. Tetsuro Wakatsuki, co-founder of Invivo and an assistant professor in the Biotechnology and Bioengineering Center at the Medical College of Wisconsin, said the instrument can “quickly and sensitively detect very small changes in the stiffness and/or contractility of the engineered heart tissues.”
The screening instrument, called the “Palpator,” was developed in collaboration with Middleton-based Gilson, Inc. It detects drug interactions with tissue that mimics healthy or diseased hearts. With this capability, some researchers could eliminate the need to test drugs on whole animals.
• Biotech firm uses live heart tissue in drug screens