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article imageNew beating heart patch can repair a human heart

By Tim Sandle     Nov 28, 2017 in Health
Researchers in the U.S.have developed a fully functioning artificial human heart muscle. This 'patch' is large enough to cover over damage experienced by patients who have suffered a heart attack.
The new medical device has been developed by biotechnologists working at Duke University and the study paves the way for repairing dead heart muscle in human patients, something that would save the lives of people who have experienced heart attacks.
Explaining further why this research is important, lead scientist Dr. Ilya Shadrin told his university's website: "Right now, virtually all existing therapies are aimed at reducing the symptoms from the damage that’s already been done to the heart, but no approaches have been able to replace the muscle that’s lost, because once it’s dead, it does not grow back on its own."
This is reflective of the heart being unable to regenerate itself after a heart attack. The scar tissue that replaces dead cells is incapable of transmitting the electrical pulses necessary for a healthy heart.
The basis of the new research is the use of heart patches which could be implanted over the dead muscle. These patches would then function in place of the dead muscle for a prolonged period of time. The patch would confer strength for contractions as well as a smooth path for the heart’s electrical signals to travel across. Moreover, the patch could secrete enzymes together with growth factors to aid the recovery of damaged tissue.
The researchers have developed a heart patch of sufficient size to cover the affected tissue. This was built from human pluripotent stem cells. The stem cells were used to develop cardiomyocytes (cells for muscle contraction); fibroblasts (cells that provide a structural framework); and endothelial and smooth muscle cells (which become blood vessels).
The latest patch developed by the scientists is 16 square centimeters and five to eight cells thick. Further research is required before the patch can be used with human patients, such as ensuring that nutrients can be delivered effectively.
The new development has been reported to the journal Nature Communications. The research study is titled "Cardiopatch platform enables maturation and scale-up of human pluripotent stem cell-derived engineered heart tissues."
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