WORCESTER, Mass. — The human heart cells had just arrived, and Marianne Kanellias couldn’t wait to take them out of the liquid nitrogen cryostat and insert them into a gelatinous patch that may one day help a person heal after a heart attack.

Kanellias, who graduated from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in May, has spent the past three years volunteering in the laboratory of George Pins, a biomedical engineering professor, on a project to help the heart recover after parts of it die from lack of oxygen.

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