Heart attacks create scar tissue that can lead to congestive heart failure. High blood pressure thickens arteries and can cause heart attacks and strokes. Strokes leave damaged tissues in the brain.
These wounds have been thought permanent.
At the University of California San Diego, a team of scientists is reversing that assumption with a new injectable biogel that can heal this kind of damage from the inside out.
They began working to repair hearts after heart attacks, then they realized they were onto something bigger.
The work builds on an earlier success in which the researchers had created a hydrogel loaded with cardiac cells that could be injected into damaged heart tissue with a catheter.
The new cells cling to the gel and begin to grow new heart tissue over the defective area.
However, the treatment has to be delayed by a week or more after the attack so the traumatized heart can stabilize before being stabbed by a needle.
The group wanted a treatment that could be used immediately so they decided to inject the cell-laden gel into the bloodstream, which would carry the new cells right to the stricken heart so they could get to work.
After discovering that many of their gel’s particles were too big to navigate the bloodstream, the researchers spun the gel in a centrifuge, which separated out the gel’s nanoparticles.
When they injected the nanoparticles carrying heart cells into the bloodstream, they expected the biomaterial to pass through gaps in the heart’s blood vessels opened by the heart attack and into the heart tissue.
Instead, their gel bound to the blood vessel linings, closed the gaps, reduced inflammation, and sped the vessels’ healing.
Testing the process on pigs’ cardiac systems, they found the same result.
As they prepare for human clinical trials, they’ve set a bigger goal: the same gel loaded with the right cells might be used to repair brain damage after strokes.
Lab tests are being planned.
TRENDPOST: Medical science continues to discover that the body’s own mechanisms and materials are the best healers. Physicians do their best work when they help that to happen.