Heart Valve Research Update with Lee Sierad

When we last heard about Lee Sierad, his research team was presented with a $25,000 grant from ERHF for his research to work towards developing living biomaterials that can be formed into pediatric and young adult heart valves. 

Sierad’s work is geared towards researching ways to put cells on the decellularized pericardium, then forming it into a valve. Sierad’s work involves looking at the pericardium, the sac around the heart, and breaking down the cellular components within the pericardium. This process occurs when the cells are washed out, only leaving collagen fiber. From here, Sierad and his team reinsert stem cells onto the pericardium to hopefully turn it into a living heart valve. 

“To work on forming it into the shape of a heart valve, my team has actually been talking to tailors and seamstresses so we can find a repeatable pattern that allows the valve we have created to grow as the heart grows,” Sierad said. 

Currently, Sierad has done a lot of decellularization of the pericardium and has tried different varieties of pericardium like cow and pig pericardium. From the last time we talked to Sierad, his team has made advancements on the device they have used to put the cells back on the pericardium. This device has been utilized by Sierad and his team for a while, and co-founders and executive director of ERHF got to see it demonstrated when they presented him with the grant. 

In terms of the project’s future, Sierad hopes to demonstrate to future investors that this is a viable product and that biomaterials do work short-term. Long-term, Sierad’s goal is to decrease the number of invasive surgeries for those with congenital heart diseases, as the heart valve Sierad and his team develop will be expandable and grow as the child or young adult grows. 

“I want to say to the patients who are out there now that this is not available yet, but we see you and understand there is a very desperate need, we are trying to address this need and want to advance life and give the families hope for the future,” said Sierad.

Not only that, but as the interview ended, Sierad emphasized that he was thankful for his God-given talent that could assist others. “God gives us the skills we have to help others, so I want to try as much as I can to assist others with the skills God gave me so I can use my gifts for his good. While it is not always obvious, he [God] is my main motivator.”