Final faceoff: It’s THI/Rice vs. MIT for STAT Madness championship

Texas Heart Institute and Rice nanotube fibers reach title round of biomedical competition

carbon nanotube fibers

Now it’s one-on-one.

STAT Madness is up for grabs as a Texas Heart Institute (THI) and Rice University collaboration has reached the final round of the national biomedical competition.

Heart with carbon nanotube fibers

The home team's heart-saving nanotube fibers are facing off against the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT's imaging system that spots tiny ovarian cancer tumors. The NCAA-style, single-elimination national competition to choose the past year's best university-based bioscience project began with 64 teams.

Online voting is open until April 5 at 8 p.m.

So: Vote!

The THI/Rice collaboration began several years ago when researchers began testing carbon nanotube fibers developed in the lab of Rice chemical and biomolecular engineer Matteo Pasquali to see if the conductive, flexible fibers could be used to restore electrical function to heart tissue damaged by heart attacks or other conditions.

Last August, the team presented evidence of its success in the American Heart Association journal Circulation: Arrhythmia and Electrophysiology. The journal chose the paper as an open-access Editor’s Pick. The American Heart Association helped fund the research with a 2015 grant.

Pasquali, the A.J. Hartsook Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and a professor of materials science and nanoengineering and of chemistry at Rice, co-led the research with Dr. Mehdi Razavi of THI.

The research springs from the pioneering 2013 invention by Pasquali’s lab of a method to make conductive fibers out of carbon nanotubes. The fibers are also being studied for electrical interfaces with the brain for use in cochlear implants, as flexible antennas and for automotive and aerospace applications.

STAT, an online publication associated with the Boston Globe focused on health and medicine, began the competition in 2017 to celebrate biomedical science and remind readers that "tackling disease starts with small advances, often supported with federal funding," according to a preview of this year's event.

Two winners will be chosen: a "fan favorite" based on votes by the public, and an editor's pick chosen by STAT journalists. The winners will be announced April 6.