Leigh G. Griffiths, Ph.D., MRCVS, is a veterinary cardiologist, cardiovascular surgeon and research scientist focused on identifying and overcoming immunological barriers in organ transplantation, and leveraging such insights toward cardiovascular regenerative medicine and tissue engineering.
In Dr. Griffiths' Cardiovascular Engineering Research Laboratory, his team has developed novel methods for identification of inciting causes of immune-mediated attacks toward both human-derived (for example, heart transplantation) and animal-derived (for example, heart valve replacement) tissues and organs after implantation in patients. The team then leverages this information toward development of novel, immunologically acceptable animal-derived tissue scaffolds for cardiovascular regenerative medicine and tissue engineering applications.
By combining such immunologically acceptable tissue scaffolds with the patient's own cells, Dr. Griffiths' laboratory aims to engineer new replacement tissues and organs that will be accepted as part of the patient's own body, providing lifelong function without the need for immunosuppressive therapy.
Transplant immunology projects:
- Heart transplant. Dr. Griffiths' laboratory group collaborates extensively with colleagues in the William J. von Liebig Center for Transplantation and Clinical Regeneration to develop noninvasive diagnostic tests for early detection of heart transplantation rejection, providing patient-specific monitoring to guide individualized immunosuppression regimens in recipients of heart transplants.
- Heart valve replacement. Dr. Griffiths' laboratory collaborates with colleagues in the Department of Cardiovascular Surgery and Department of Cardiovascular Medicine to identify immune-mediated mechanisms that initiate structural valve deterioration in patients with biological heart valve replacements. This work has potential to guide novel therapeutic interventions for patients after heart valve replacement, to prolong valve function.
Tissue engineering and regenerative medicine projects:
- Heart valve. Dr. Griffiths' laboratory group has a long track record of innovation in the area of heart valve tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. Ongoing projects focus on development of nonimmunogenic animal-derived biomaterials, which can function lifelong in valve replacement patients. Critically, such biomaterials have the potential to grow with the patient, overcoming the current clinical need for multiple valve replacement surgeries over the patient's life.
- Vessels. Dr. Griffiths' laboratory team has ongoing research into approaches for tissue engineering of a wide range of vascular structures (such as veins, and small- and large-diameter arteries), for replacement or regeneration of vascular structures in patients with congenital cardiovascular defects, aortic aneurysm, aortic dissection, peripheral artery disease and coronary artery disease.
- Cardiac muscle and whole heart. Dr. Griffiths' laboratory has numerous collaborative projects examining use of xenogeneic extracellular matrix scaffolds in heart muscle and whole-heart tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. The goal of this research is to provide functional cardiac tissue for the repair and replacement of damaged myocardium after myocardial infarction, and for whole-organ replacement in end-stage heart failure.
Significance to patient care
Since its inception, Dr. Griffiths' Cardiovascular Engineering Research Laboratory has been dedicated to bench-to-bedside translational research to improve lives of both human and animal patients. The innovations, patents and advances generated in Dr. Griffiths' laboratory are under development with commercial partners toward clinical application. The laboratory is committed to developing improved diagnostic and therapeutic approaches for patients with cardiovascular disease.