Patching a broken heart

28 August 2009

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Category: Research & medical benefits

heart–patch.jpgA team of scientists have developed a patch which could help the heart to heal after damage. Heart attacks often cause irreversible damage to the heart muscle, leaving survivors more prone to further attacks or heart failure.

The team took immature heart cells from newborn rats, and placed them onto a biodegradable 'scaffold'. They then exposed the patch to chemicals which encouraged the cells to grow, before transplanting it into the abdomens of rats. After a week, the patch developed a network of blood vessels and muscle fibres and could be grafted onto the rat's heart. Full integration, where the patch was able to synchronise its beat with the surround tissue, was seen within a month.

It is hoped that the procedure may lead to treatments in humans. But because most heart attack patients are old, multiple surgeries can pose a significant risk. The technique could show more promise for mending damage to other organs such as the liver and bladder, and development is already underway.