In 2014, approximately 26 million people worldwide were living with heart failure. Their heart no longer has the strength to properly pump blood around. Often because a part of the myocardial tissue has died following a heart attack. Aggravation of the problems can often be avoided using drugs. But it does not always succeed and you will not regain your former muscle strength. Is tissue engineering capable of recovering the strength of the heart muscle?
Slightly positive effect
Researchers of the UMCU (Netherlands) managed to have cardiac stem cells attached to a mouse heart for a long standing time. They have used a new type of heart tissue for this study which is produced in a 3D printer. This “stitch” process is essential in the future in order to repair the patients heart function after a heart attack using stem cells.
A 3D printer was used to inject a mixture of hyaluronic acid (filler of protein substances between the cells) and gelatin in 6 layers with a thickness of 500 µm in total.
The researchers applied human heart stem cells to this matrix. First analysis showed that cells are growing well onto this material and are able to develop further.
“Both for animals trial and for clinical tests on humans, the 3D heart patch process has a slightly positive effect…”, says Dr. P. Doevendans (Cardiology Professor at the UMCU, The Netherlands), referring to an improvement of the heart’s pumping power with 3 to 5%. That seems minor, but “… if the heart has 20% of the original capacity left and it increases to 25%, that is actually a significant improvement!”.
… 4 weeks later, 90% of the stem cells were still attached to the heart!
The next step…
Under the leadership of J. Sluijter (Professor Cellular & Translational Cardiology at UMCU The Netherlands) and R. Gaetani (University of California, San Diego), researchers have now developed a kind of biological patch to stitch the cells onto the heart. “The cells were still largely on the outside of the heart. We now have to look for a method to have the cells further integrated into the heart…”. The ultimate objective of this tissue engineering is to create heart muscle tissue in the future that takes over the function of the tissue that has died during a heart attack.
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