(Ivanhoe Newswire) – What looks like a tiny beating heart is actually
a piece of synthetic, gauze-like mesh, barely the size of a fingernail,
floating in a Petri dish.
Researchers at The University of Arizona's Sarver Heart Center and the
Southern Arizona Veterans Administration Health Care System (SAVAHCS) have
come a step closer to repairing hearts damaged by a heart attack or weakened
by chronic heart failure.
"We have developed a delivery system that allows us to introduce living,
healthy heart muscle cells into damaged areas of the heart in a way that is
much more efficient than the conventionally practiced method of injecting
cells into heart tissue," study leader Steven Goldman, MD, is quoted as
Dr. Goldman and his team discovered that when they "seed" a vicryl mesh
patch with a sufficient number of heart muscle cells (2.5 million or more),
the cells start behaving just like their counterparts in the real organ.
They contract synchronously at about 70 beats per minute even without any
outside stimulation. "Our work shows that we can put living cells onto a
biodegradable, 3-dimensional scaffold in a way that not only allows them to
survive, but to spontaneously beat in a coordinated fashion," Jordan
Lancaster, BS, a pre-doctoral fellow in Dr. Goldman's lab who will present
the research at the meeting on July 21, 2009, is quoted as saying.
The group's latest achievements have attracted the attention of the American
Heart Association, who picked the research as one of the most noteworthy
achievements of this year's Cardiovascular Sciences Annual Conference in Las
Vegas, Nevada. "Ultimately, we hope to use our system in patients with
chronic heart failure and, possibly, to prevent heart failure in patients
who had a heart attack," said Lancaster.
Dr. Goldman believes the construct developed in his lab provides a better
vehicle to introduce cells into damaged heart muscle than conventional cell
transplantation techniques, in which cells are injected directly into the
heart. "I think the main reason for the disappointing results people have
seen with those clinical trials is that the cells end up in an environment
that is not optimal for them to thrive in. Scar tissue offers poor blood
supply and weak structural support for new cells to attach, survive and
grow. Our patch offers just what cardiac muscle cells need: structural
support, increased blood supply and chemicals secreted by the supporting
cells on the patch that help the heart muscle cells grow and function."
SOURCE: Presented at the Cardiovascular Sciences Annual Conference in Las
Vegas, Nevada, July 21, 2009