Researchers and medical workers have been looking at ways to improve the rates of recovery of heart attack sufferers. One of the methods is by using cardiac patches, which are meant to regenerate healthy tissue following the injury and restore the organ to its optimal function.
Researchers from North Carolina State University (NC State University) have developed an "off-the-shelf" artificial cardiac patch that overcomes some of the dangers of other medical approaches.
Their findings were published in Science Translational Medicine.
The main point of a cardiac patch is to repair tissue on the organ that has been irreversibly damaged due to a heart attack. There have been numerous ways researchers have looked into in order to find the best recovery method.
Many of these methods involve living cells being implanted at the place of the damage. However, this brings about some dangers, as per the NC State University researchers, as it can heighten the chances of tumors, irregular heartbeat, or triggering an immune response from the patient.
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Now, the team of researchers believes they've found a safe alternative.
"We have developed an artificial cardiac patch that can potentially solve the problems associated with using live cells, yet still deliver effective cell therapy to the site of injury," said study author Ke Cheng.
The NC State University team's cardiac patch is an "off-the-shelf" design that is made up of decellularized pig heart tissue that is placed into a scaffolding matrix, then synthetic cardiac stromal cells with repair factors derived from real cardiac stromal cells are embedded into the structure. The end result is a patch that offers all the therapeutics that are normally secreted by cells but in a completely artificial format.
When trialing the patch on a rat model of a heart attack, its cardiac function improved by around 50% within three weeks in comparison to receiving no treatment. Scarring was also reduced by around 30%. And in a seven-day study with a pig model, the patch also reduced scarring by 30% and it stabilized the heart function.
The team also discovered the patch functioned as well even after being stored in a frozen chamber. "The patch can be frozen and safely stored for at least 30 days, and since there are no live cells involved, it will not trigger a patient’s immune system to reject it," Cheng said.
"It is the first step toward a truly off-the-shelf solution to cardiac patch therapy."