We write a lot about scientists testing various types of stem cells as a way of repairing hearts damaged by heart attack (here’s one recent post). But the heart is more than just a bunch of muscle tissue, which is what stem cell scientists are usually trying to replace.
With that in mind, CIRM grantees at Stanford published a paper week in Biomaterials in which they tested a synthetic patch to support the flexible outer portion of the heart. This patch was more like the outer wall of a developing heart, rather than mimicking the stiffer adult tissue. According to a press release from Stanford, here’s how those animals fared:
Compared with control mice that received no patch, mice that were given the patch promptly after experiencing a surgically induced heart attack showed significant improvement in overall cardiac function in echocardiograms two weeks later. The patched hearts showed more migration of cells to the site of the injury four weeks after patch implantation. The new cells were present both in the patch and in the adjacent damaged heart tissue.
The patched hearts also had greater development of new blood vessels, which appeared to have improved delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the tissue, thus reducing the number of cells that perished compared to unpatched hearts.
The scientists say the patch could also be used to help deliver drugs or perhaps stem cells into the heart tissue. It’s still too soon to know whether the improvements due to the patch lasted months or years later rather than being a short-term fix.
There’s more about CIRM funding for heart disease research on our heart disease fact sheet.