Patching a broken heart

heart_dietResearchers have developed a cardiac “patch” in rats that can be cultured inside living tissue, then transplanted into the host animal’s heart to mend muscle tissue. Patching the heart, which cannot regenerate cells after the damage of a heart attack, with new cells can aid the organ’s recovery and increase its function. Smadar Cohen and colleagues developed a method to transition cells grown in the lab to an injured heart with an intermediate step that uses the body as a bioreactor. The researchers seeded a scaffold with neonatal rat heart cells and a cocktail of growth factors. After 48 hours, they transplanted this cardiac patch inside the rat’s abdomen. For seven days the patch, bathed in the growth factors, incubated in the blood vessel-rich tissue of the abdomen’s omentum. This intermediate step allowed the patch to develop the network of capillaries and muscle fibers necessary for survival and function. Once grafted onto the heart, the patch continued to develop and integrate with the rat’s heart tissue. After 28 days, the test animals showed more extensive vessel formation in their patched hearts than controls, and the repaired tissue had coupled its cell firing rhythm to that of the original, neighboring heart cells, according to the authors. “Pre-vascularization of cardiac patch on the omentum improves its therapeutic outcome” by Tal Dvir, Alon Kedem, Emil Ruvinov, Oren Levy, Inbar Freeman, Natalie Landa, Radka Holbova, Micha S. Feinberg, Shani Dror, Yoram Etzion, et al.   news from pnas.org

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