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For patients needing heart transplants in the future, a recent discovery by Dr. Sanjiv Dhingra and his team of researchers in the Cardiac Regeneration and Tissue Engineering Program here at St. Boniface Hospital Research, may mean they never have to take anti-rejection drugs, which come with significant side effects.

Dhingra’s work studying immuno-engineering interventions using next-generation bio-compatible nanomaterials is again attracting international attention with the recent publication in Advanced Functional Materials, a prominent journal in the field of nanotechnology with an impact factor of 18.8.

The paper, titled Fabrication of Smart Tantalum Carbide MXene Quantum Dots with Intrinsic Immunodulatory Properties for Treatment of Allograft Vasculopathy is featured in AFM’s Frontispiece cover, a nod to its significance as a first to report this application for in vivo treatment of transplant vasculopathy.

MXene nanomaterials have sparked significant interest among interdisciplinary researchers to tackle today’s medical challenges. As Dhingra explained, “This work focuses on immuno-engineering interventions which could be helpful for people receiving organ transplants to avoid the need to rely on anti-rejection drugs, which they normally have to take for the rest of their lives.”

The team’s approach uses rational design and synthesis strategies to develop intrinsically immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory tantalum carbide MXene quantum dots. These MQDs are able to alter surface receptor expression of immune cells and reduce their activation. “In other words,” Dhingra explained, “We believe that MQDs may halt the body’s automatic inflammatory response, which is the irreversible first stage of the body’s rejection attempts.”

This work also comes at a critical juncture in the field, as poor long-term safety of several other MXene compositions is being challenged as viable for eventual clinical translatability.

Dhingra said, “Our tantalum nanomaterial is non-toxic and highly bio-compatible based on our observations thus far. We are confident it can be integrated into the body without harm, but of course, human clinical trials will be needed to confirm that.”

The team’s application for a US patent was recently approved which confirms their claim of a novel, immuno-engineering method and first application of this material in preventing rejection of transplanted donor organs by recipient immune system.

“It’s an exciting development and we are looking forward to advancing our research to the next stage.” Dhingra shared.