A new, less invasive platform that uses nanomaterial may help heal damage in patients post-heart attack, a landmark study revealed.

For patients who survive a heart attack, the days following the event are crucial for long-term healing and longevity of the heart's tissue.

Now, a team of scientists from University of California, San Diego, and Northwestern University have produced a less invasive platform that uses nanomaterial to turn the body's inflammatory response into a signal to heal instead of scarring after a heart attack.

Less Invasive Platform With Nanomaterial Heals Heart Damage

A heart attack strips away the extracellular matrix of a person's heart, and instead, a scar tissue forms in its place. This decreases the heart's functionality. Because of this, most survivors still have some form of heart disease.

The process of engineering tissues to replace the loss of the extracellular matrix that degrades a patient's heart after an attack is not new, but such a process cannot be done using a minimally invasive strategy because it clogs the tube.

In the new study, which was done on mice, researchers were able to demonstrate a novel way to deliver a biodegradable, bioactivated, and regenerative substance using noninvasive catheter without clogging.

Andrea Carlini, the study's first author, explained that the research team sought to follow a peptide-based approach because biocompatible and biodegradable compounds form nanofibers that look and act similar to the lost extracellular matrix.

Typical strategies rely on direct injections to the heart, but this option is not feasible, so Carlini and her colleagues wanted a platform that could be delivered through intracoronary or transendocardial catheter.

What the researchers did was to inject a self-assembling peptide solution that seeks out the heart's damaged extracellular matrix. This peptide solution is then activated by the inflammatory environment.

Testing The Solution On Rodent Models

Carlini and her colleagues tested the peptide solution in rats into two proof-of-concept tests. The first test proved that the material could be fed through a catheter without clogging and without interacting with blood.

The second test determined whether the peptide solution could successfully find their way to the damaged heart tissue.

A fluorescent tag was attached to the peptide solution. Researchers then imaged the heart to see where the peptides settled eventually.

The study revealed that when the fluorescent tag is removed and replaced with a therapeutic, the self-assembling peptides will find the damaged heart tissue.

Implications Of The Study

"This research centered on building a dynamic platform," said Nathan C. Gianneschi, one of the authors of the study. "And the beauty is that this delivery system now can be modified to use different chemistries or therapeutics."

However, one caveat of the study is that catheter delivery in rodent models is far more complicated compared to catheter delivery in humans because rats are smaller animals.

Regardless, the researchers are optimistic about the capabilities of this less invasive peptide solution. If Carlini and her colleagues can prove that this less invasive strategy is effective, there is a possibility for a clinical trial involving human patients. This process would take several years.

The findings of the study are available in the journal Nature Communications.

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