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Could This 3D-Printed Patch Heal A Damaged Heart?

24 April 2017, 9:50 pm EDT By Katrina Pascual Tech Times
Teams from the University of Minnesota and other institutions employed laser 3D-bioprinting methods to integrate stem cells obtained from adult heart cells. In the process, the cells started to grow as well as synchronously beat in a laboratory dish.   ( Patrick O’Leary, University of Minnesota )

A new discovery from biomedical researchers features a novel 3D-bioprinted patch that could help renew scarred tissue and assist heart attack patients.

The American Heart Association warned that heart disease ranks number 1 in death causes in the United States, affecting over 360,000 every year. In this condition, the patients lose blood flow to their heart, causing cells to die.

Since the human body cannot replace cells in the heart muscle, it forms scar tissue in the area, putting the patient at greater risk for poor heart function and even sets the stage for heart failure in the future.

How 3D-Bioprinting Works In A Broken Heart

In the study, the team from the University of Minnesota and other institutions employed laser 3D-bioprinting methods to integrate stem cells obtained from adult heart cells. In the process, the cells started to grow as well as synchronously beat in a laboratory dish.

When the resulting cell patch was positioned on a mouse after the team simulated a heart attack, there was a significant rise in the organ’s function after four weeks. The patch was integrated into the heart and then absorbed into the body since it was made from the organ’s cells and structural proteins, eliminating the need for further surgical procedures.

“We feel that we could scale this up to repair hearts of larger animals and possibly even humans within the next several years,” said study researcher and associate professor Brenda Ogle in a statement.

The patch is deemed a different approach from previous research as it was modeled after the digital, 3D scan of the structural proteins of the heart tissue. This digital model is then converted into something physical via 3D printing via heart-native proteins and with additional kinds of cardiac cells obtained from stem cells.

Prospects For Heart Health Research

According to Ogle, it was surprising to see how well the patch worked given the heart’s innate complexities. They were encouraged to see the cells aligning and resulting in a continuing wave of electrical signal moving across the biopatch, she went further.

The team plans to test a bigger patch on a pig model, whose heart is identical in the size of human hearts. The hope is to reach clinical trial phase and human testing in a decade.

“I think it’s a very big deal, it’s published in circulation research and the community has already responded,” said Ogle.

The findings were discussed in the journal Circulation Research.

A recent study on members of the Tsimane tribe in the Amazon jungle also shed light on how to potentially prevent cardiovascular disease in regions typically plagued by these conditions. It was impressive: in the research involving over 700 of these primitive people, almost nine out of 10 had clear arteries, or zero risk for heart disease.

The tribe’s diet lends insight into their healthy hearts, specifically their 14 percent protein, 14 percent fat, and 72 percent carbohydrate intake. The team noted that the carbs they consume are high-fiber and low in saturated fat as well as simple sugars.

The Tsimane also engage in plenty of physical activities, in contrast with the sedentary lifestyles in countries with high cardiovascular disease rates.

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