October 26, 2003, Updated September 13, 2012

“The integration of engineering and medicine is unique and we found it at the Technion in Haifa” – Dr. Floyd Loop, the Cleveland Clinic’s chief executiveThe Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and the prestigious Cleveland Clinic have agreed to jointly develop and use stem-cell technology to regenerate heart tissue and develop other medical advances, including robotics.

Dr. Floyd Loop, the Clinic’s chief executive, and Yitzhak Apeloig, president of Technion-Israel Institute of Technology recently signed a multiyear agreement to work on molecular medicine and biomedical engineering research, starting with five projects in orthopedics and cardiology.

“All the areas in which we will be working together are new and innovative with great promise,” Loop said. “The integration of engineering and medicine is unique and we found it at the Technion in Haifa.”

The stem-cell research seeks to replace diseased and damaged heart tissue and thus reduce or eliminate the need for artificial devices and heart transplants.

“Everyone’s very excited,” Christopher Coburn, head of the Clinic’s technology commercialization division and a member of the steering committee overseeing the collaboration, told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “These initial projects were selected because of the potential early-term clinical applications.”

Dr. Marc Penn of the Clinic said the agreement links researchers who already have specific expertise and established programs. He will work with Dr. Lior Gepstein of Technion on the stem-cell project.

Penn, who works in the cardiovascular medicine and cell biology departments, said his group works with adult stem cells, while Gepstein and his colleagues work with embryonic stem cells.

Penn said researchers already know that if they “manipulate” the heart in the right way, the body’s own stem cells will travel to the heart and become blood vessels. The goal now, Penn said, is to “(a) make sure we’re recruiting the right stem cells from the bone marrow and (b) convince them to differentiate into cardiac myocytes,” or contracting cells.

In addition to this heart project, the collaborators will work on:

** Developing a miniature robotic device – with a high-quality camera to maneuver through tight spaces in ankles, knees and hips – that gives orthopedic surgeons a better view of damaged areas.

** Finding new ways to use robotic technology to help identify where to implant lumbar screws during back surgery, thereby reducing cutting and pain.

** Developing an ultrasound-based method to help patients with congestive heart failure, which would let doctors study heart contraction and determine where to attach lead lines for devices.

** Designing an artificial cartilage that mimics true cartilage when implanted.

According to The Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at Technion, Prof. Rafael Beyer, this agreement, joins a list of agreements already signed between the Faculty and other renowned research institutions.

“This is a crowning achievement in the area of joint research between the Faculty of Medicine of Technion and outstanding research institutes in the world,” stated Beyer. “The agreement once again emphasizes the huge advantage in integrating medical science and engineering in a leading engineering university like Technion.”

The Technion is one of 14 institutions in the world that has developed stem cell lines that meet President Bush’s criteria; it is, therefore, eligible for federal funding, according to a National Institutes of Health Web site.

More on Innovation

Fighting for Israel's truth

We cover what makes life in Israel so special — it's people. A non-profit organization, ISRAEL21c's team of journalists are committed to telling stories that humanize Israelis and show their positive impact on our world. You can bring these stories to life by making a donation of $6/month. 

Jason Harris

Jason Harris

Executive Director