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Biomaterial triggers healing tissues ‘from the inside out’

The biomaterial binds to cells, closing the gaps and accelerating healing of the blood vessels, reducing inflammation as a result.

A scientist harvests H7N9 virus growing in bird eggs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention received samples of the virus from China. — James Gathany/CDC/Douglas E. Jordan / (CC0 1.0)
A scientist harvests H7N9 virus growing in bird eggs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention received samples of the virus from China. — James Gathany/CDC/Douglas E. Jordan / (CC0 1.0)

A new biomaterial is capable of healing tissues from the inside out, according to researchers at University of California – San Diego. The material can be injected intravenously and it has potential application in heart attacks, traumatic brain injury and other serious health issues.

The initial focus is on heart attacks. Following a heart attack, scar tissue develops, which diminishes muscle function and can lead to congestive heart failure.

To date, the regenerative engineering materials has been used to assess heart attacks in both rodent and large animal models (as a proof of concept). The results are sufficiently promising for human studies to be considered.

The development builds upon previous studies that created a hydrogel made from the natural scaffolding of cardiac muscle tissue (an extracellular matrix). This material can be injected into damaged heart muscle tissue via a catheter.

Once injected, the gel forms a scaffold in damaged areas of the heart. This encourages new cell growth and repair. This material can only be used a week or more after a heart attack. To overcome this limitation, the researchers sought to develop a treatment that could be administered immediately after a heart attack.

To achieve this required decellularized extracellular matrix that could be infused into a blood vessel in the heart at the same time as other treatments such as angioplasty or a stent. The advantage of this method is that the material gets evenly distributed throughout damaged tissue.

The material is composed of nano-sized particles, and it is put through dialysis and sterile filtering before being freeze dried. Adding sterile water to the final powder results in a biomaterial that can be injected intravenously or infused into a coronary artery in the heart.

The biomaterial binds to cells, closing the gaps and accelerating healing of the blood vessels, reducing inflammation as a result.

Summarising the innovation, lead researcher Professor Karen Christman states: “This biomaterial allows for treating damaged tissue from the inside out. It’s a new approach to regenerative engineering.”

Further trials will be performed by the startup Ventrix Bio, Inc., which is seeking authorization from the U.S. FDA to conduct a study in humans of the new biomaterial’s applications for heart conditions.

The research appears in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering, titled “Intravascularly infused extracellular matrix as a biomaterial for targeting and treating inflamed tissues.”

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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