'Heart in a Box': Global Effort Works to Put the Pieces Together

Graphic: Marlene J. Viola Some say it takes a village to raise a child. Michael V. Sefton proposes that it will take a world to build a heart. Sefton, a University of Toronto chemical engineering professor, leads an international effort called the Living Implants from Engineering (L.I.F.E.) Initiative, whose goal is to create a bioengineered heart in 10 years. To meet that mark, participants must grapple with a host of scientific concerns and more mundane matters. Research questions that must b

Paul Smaglik
Mar 14, 1999

Graphic: Marlene J. Viola
Some say it takes a village to raise a child. Michael V. Sefton proposes that it will take a world to build a heart. Sefton, a University of Toronto chemical engineering professor, leads an international effort called the Living Implants from Engineering (L.I.F.E.) Initiative, whose goal is to create a bioengineered heart in 10 years. To meet that mark, participants must grapple with a host of scientific concerns and more mundane matters. Research questions that must be resolved range from choosing between a natural and synthetic "scaffold" on which to graft the separately cultured parts to controlling cellular differentiation and vascular growth. Practical problems include divvying labor, finding funding, and negotiating intellectual property and spin-off company terms.

Although many scientific and practical issues remain unresolved, both science and practicality remain inextricably linked. The answer to each, Sefton believes, is communication and cooperation. Communication among partners will...

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