After a heart attack, damaged heart tissues do not usually heal very well. Heart attack, also known as myocardial infarction (MI), weakens the pumping action of the heart and impedes electrical signaling through the heart. Now, a group of scientists at the Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland have developed a prototype patch that does the same job as crucial aspects of heart tissue.
Their patch withstands the mechanical demands and mimics the electrical signaling properties that allow our hearts to pump blood rhythmically round our bodies. Their work essentially takes us one step closer to a functional design that could mend a broken heart, reports Trinity College.
Cardiac patches lined with heart cells can be applied surgically to restore heart tissue in patients who have had damaged tissue removed after a heart attack and to repair congenital heart defects in infants and children.
Ultimately, though, the goal is to create cell-free patches that can restore the synchronous beating of the heart cells, without impairing the heart muscle movement, the Trinity report said.
Michael Monaghan, ussher assistant professor in biomedical engineering at Trinity, and senior author on the paper, said:
“Despite some advances in the field, heart disease still places a huge burden on our healthcare systems and the life quality of patients worldwide. It affects all of us either directly or indirectly through family and friends. As a result, researchers are continuously looking to develop new treatments which can include stem cell treatments, biomaterial gel injections and assistive devices.”
“Ours is one of few studies that looks at a traditional material, and through effective design allows us to mimic the direction-dependent mechanical movement of the heart, which can be sustained repeatably. This was achieved through a novel method called ‘melt electrowriting’ and through close collaboration with the suppliers located nationally we were able to customize the process to fit our design needs.”
The patch withstood repeated stretching, which is a dominant concern for cardiac biomaterials, and showed good elasticity, to accurately mimic that key property of heart muscle.
The researchers published their work in the journal Advanced Functional Materials.