October 18, 2021 – After a heart attack, the damaged area of the heart often turns into scar tissue that cannot receive electrical messages to contract and pump blood to the body. The result is a weakened heart that can beating irregularly, known as an arrhythmia, or fail.
Right now, doctors have two imperfect ways to repair this damaged tissue. One is to surgically implant a scaffold that conducts electricity and bridges the heart’s signaling system across the dead tissue. However, these implants require open chest surgery, which is risky and can lead to other heart problems.
Doctors can take an approach that avoids opening the chest, but the patch used for these procedures may not hold its shape if it is transplanted onto damaged tissue.
Now scientists may be working on a solution that promises the best of both worlds: an injectable patch that conducts electricity and maintains its shape once applied to the heart muscle.
The patch has not yet been tested in humans – such studies are still a long way off – but initial results in animals show potential.
This experimental patch can be rolled up, threaded into a catheter or syringe, and injected into damaged heart tissue, where it unfolds and attaches to the muscle. After application, the patch supports normal heart function, according to the results of studies with rats and pigs. The results were published in Nature Biomedical Engineering.
When the researchers broke the patch on a damaged heart muscle in rats, they found that this solution resulted in a return to largely normal heart function within 4 weeks. The results were similar when scientists tested the patch on a small number of pigs believed to resemble humans more than rodents.
The patched hearts did a better job of pumping oxygenated blood into the body, and the amount of heart tissue that was not getting enough oxygen also decreased.