News / Health

Researchers Develop Injectable Gel to Repair Damaged Hearts

Jessica Berman
People who suffer heart attacks are at increased risk of having a second and potentially fatal occurrence because of the damage the heart attack does to cardiac muscle tissue. Now scientists at the University of California San Diego have developed a new biomaterial - an injectable hydrogel  - that can repair the damage from heart attacks, and help promote the growth of new heart tissue.  

Millions of people around the world suffer heart attacks every year and survive. These traumatic events occur when blood supply to the heart muscles is somehow blocked, robbing them of oxygen and causing them to die. They raise the possibility of subsequent heart attacks, as well as heart failure, and a higher likelihood of death within five years.

The problem, say experts, is the development of scar tissue in the damaged cardiac muscle. Initially helpful in healing the heart, the tough scar tissue actually weakens the supportive protein scaffold, or matrix, that normally exists in the space between heart muscle cells.  This scaffold can support and promote the growth of new cells -- except when it's destroyed by post-heart attack scar tissue.  

“So we thought the best thing to deliver to the heart would be what was initially there in the first place," said Karen Christman, who is a biomedical engineer interested in tissue regeneration. "And so we developed this liquid form of this cardiac extracellular matrix that once it goes into the tissue can reassemble into that natural scaffold.”

Microscopic images of pig hearts damaged by heart attack show the growth of new heart muscle tissue (shown in red, Figure A) after treatment with an injectable hydrogel compared to a heart left untreated (Figure B, right). Image Credit: Karen Christman, UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering.Microscopic images of pig hearts damaged by heart attack show the growth of new heart muscle tissue (shown in red, Figure A) after treatment with an injectable hydrogel compared to a heart left untreated (Figure B, right). Image Credit: Karen Christman, UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering.
x
Microscopic images of pig hearts damaged by heart attack show the growth of new heart muscle tissue (shown in red, Figure A) after treatment with an injectable hydrogel compared to a heart left untreated (Figure B, right). Image Credit: Karen Christman, UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering.
Microscopic images of pig hearts damaged by heart attack show the growth of new heart muscle tissue (shown in red, Figure A) after treatment with an injectable hydrogel compared to a heart left untreated (Figure B, right). Image Credit: Karen Christman, UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering.
Christman and colleagues at the University of California San Diego made the hydrogel from a portion of pig heart tissue by first stripping it of all its cells with a detergent, revealing a feathery, translucent web of connective tissue.  This matrix was then freeze-dried and milled into a powder.  

Next, the material was liquefied and injected directly into the hearts of subject pigs who had experienced heart attacks.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    When the cardiac liquid reached body temperature, Christman says, it became a semi-solid gel that formed a new scaffold in damaged areas of the heart. That encouraged new cell growth, she adds, and a more normal, less scar-prone tissue repair.  

“When we looked after three months after we had given the treatment, we found a significant increase in cardiac muscle as well as a decrease in scar tissue," she said. "And while we were hoping to see that, that was an exciting new finding since ideally after a heart attack you want to reduce as much scar as possible and get as much muscle as possible.”

Christman says she and her colleagues hope to begin human trials with this minimally-invasive heart repair technique sometime later this year in Europe. The injectable gel would again be produced from pig-heart tissue.  Porcine heart valves are frequently used to repair human hearts because they don't cause serious rejection problems in transplant recipients.  

The University of California's Karen Christman made her comments in an interview with the journal Science Translational Medicine, which published the article on the cardiac hydrogel.

You May Like

Nigeria Incumbent in Tight Spot as Poll Nears

Muhammadu Buhari is running a strong challenge to Goodluck Jonathan, amid a faltering economy and Boko Haram security worries More

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo tells VOA that despite her fame, life is still a struggle as she waits for government's promise of support to arrive More

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

At least seven different indigenous groups in Ratanakiri depend mainly on forest products for their survival, say they face loss of their land, traditional way of life More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More