After a heart attack, the scarred tissue damages the heart muscles and cells. Many researchers have attempted to solve this problem by reversing the damage of the heart. Scientists from University of Pennsylvania are one step closer to this solution by developing injectable gels that can repair the areas weakened by heart attack and also reduces the risk of future heart attacks.
Around 750,000 people in the U.S. suffer from heart attacks every year. The Heart is the most vital organ of our body and a failure means constriction of the arteries which will lead to restricted blood flow and in severe cases, it can damage or kill the cells in the heart. However, the damage persists even after the heart attack owing to the residual scar tissues. These scar tissues cause further complications which might result in another heart attack.
Recent studies have used animal models to study whether cell injections inserted in hydrogels are effective in treating the damage caused by the aftermath of the heart attack. Hydrogels are a mesh of polymer chains containing water. This prevents the cells from escaping the damaged tissue. The interesting revelation of this study was that hydrogels alone can help in the treatment of damaged heart tissue in animals, even without cell injections.
Burdick and colleagues are currently studying the effectiveness of hydrogels as a non-invasive treatment for tissue damage. Their aim is to recognize particular properties of these gels that give them the ability to repair heart tissues.
“It’s important we all keep moving forward to figure out how this therapy could be used, because it’s different than any current treatment,” says Burdick.
The team attached adamantane and cyclodextrin groups with hyaluronic acid (present in the body naturally) as the base to form a hydrogel that can easily flow throw the catheters into the body. To strengthen the polymer chain network, methacrylate and thiol groups were added. This resulted in a gel that was stiff in consistency and had a longer life. After experimenting the gel on sheep, the scientists discovered that it 1- limits the scar tissue formation 2- prevent the heart from enlarging 3- prevent the thinning of heart walls. Meaning it treats all the detrimental after-effects of the heart-attack. The video below explains the process of injecting hydrogels:
The success of these injecting hydrogels is by far limited to animals only. It has not been tested on humans yet but the researchers are hopeful. If these gels work on humans (and we hope it does soon), it could be a non-invasive and an effective way to curb the heart damage caused by the scarred tissue of heart attacks.