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Dr. Robert Boomsma '77 is working on a potentially major medical breakthrough during his spring sabbatical that would spell good news for heart attack victims.

"We're trying to determine if adult stem cells can rebuild cardiac muscle after a heart attack," he shared. "That would allow people to regain some heart function and improve their chances for survival."

The longtime Trinity biology chairman has teamed with Dr. Dave Geenen, a professor of cardiology at the University of Illinois-Chicago, to study the reaction of adult stem cells in mice. The researchers induce heart attacks in the mice before injecting them with the stem cells, then monitor the mice to observe changes in the heart wall and improvement in the heart's ability to pump blood.

"I've always been interested in stem cell research," said Boomsma, who completed his doctorate in anatomy at UIC. "This project does not spark the controversy that surrounds embryonic stem cell research but could prove to be just as productive."

Boomsma and Geenen also suspect that adult stem cells may have the capability to evolve into tissue that enhance bone, fat, cartilage, and neurons. One hypothesis they are testing is whether or not damaged tissue in the body "attracts" stem cells in order to replenish itself.

The two scientists were eager to collaborate on a venture, but they could not find a mutually convenient time in their schedules until now. Though cardiology is not Boomsma's area of expertise, he could not pass up the opportunity to work with Geenen, a friend who attends church with Boomsma.

"This sabbatical presented a good time to develop a partnership with Dave," Boomsma said. "This is a new area of research for me, and I'm learning new techniques that I can apply in other research settings."

Related Link:
Robert Boomsma Faculty Profile

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