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New remedies for broken hearts

by Srushti Shah
Feb 19, 2013

Cardiac patch tissue

Courtesy:Brigham and Women's Hospital

The cardiac tissue patch created with the help of carbon nanotubes could be a critical step towards the development of artificial organs.

Cardiac patch tissue

Courtesy:Brigham and Women's Hospital

Carbon nanotubes act as a scaffold to support the cells that help to make this cardiac patch.

Microscopic image

Courtesy:Brigham and Women's Hospital

Along with better electrical and physical properties, this tissue patch also has mechanical properties according to the researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital.

Broken or damaged hearts could be repaired with the help of the artificial heart tissues created by the Boston researchers.

“The great thing about this cardiac tissue patches is that they have amazing mechanical properties,” said Mehmet Dokmeci, one of the researchers at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

The researchers created ultra-thin cardiac patches with the help of carbon nanotubes.

Ali Khademhosseini, a researcher in the division of biomedical engineering at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, led the study published in the Jan. 30 issues of the American Chemical Society journal, ACS Nano.

“We embedded the carbon nanotubes into the hydrogel (network of polymer chains dispersed in water) scaffold to seed cells onto,” said Dokmeci.“The cardiac tissues that we created on top of these polymers have better biological properties."

The researchers said that they believed that the tissue patches made with carbon nanotubes are more robust, relatively non-toxic and can be used to repair the damaged part of heart or any other organ. Though such experiments and studies have been done previously, the researchers said that the mechanical and electrical tuning of the substrates (a surface on which an organism is attached) for the cardiac tissue patches is one reason why this study is set apart.

Advantages of this technology include maintenance of mechanical and electrical properties without interferring with the biocompatibility of the tissue patch.

“One of the interesting things is that these patches can be photopatterned (patterns etched by light) and various shapes and dimensions can be readily realized with microscale precision,” Dokmeci said.

“The study does make sense,” said Dr. Hossein Ardehali, associate professor of medicine, pharmacology and biological chemistry at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University. “These things can be done in tissue culture, but it’s a long road to go before any of this can be translated into clinical research."

He said that the questions about the synchronizations of cells and whether the cells would survive in the heart, should be addressed to before moving forward, and that though this would be the first step, whether it would actually be useful in human bodies cannot be determined at the moment.

Despite the concerns the researchers are positive that this creation could be one of the critical steps towards developing artificial organs using nanotechnology.

“The tissue patches do have amazing properties that haven’t been reported before,” Dokmeci said. “But how these things behave in the human body still require further studies."