The evolution of treatment and management strategies for heart failure has been supported by some of the most sophisticated medical devices and surgical techniques developed over the last five decades. Despite these significant advances, a major limitation of our hearts is their inability to regenerate the vital myocardium (muscular tissue) which is essential to maintaining cardiac output. Thus injury to the myocardium can lead to permanently inhibited cardiac function which is difficult if not impossible to rehabilitate with even the most sophisticated medical technologies.
Consequently, methods to regenerate or rehabilitate the myocardium is a major research focus for teams looking to impact the heart disease epidemic. Researchers from Brigham And Woman’s Hospital in Boston, MA are aiming to ameliorate the function of injured myocardium using micro-patterned hydro-gel scaffolds which replicate the biological and mechanical characteristics of natural myocardium.
The gels are fabricated using UV light to create micro-patterns on a methacrylated tropoelastin (MeTro) hydro-gel substrate. The patterning is designed to facilitate cell orientation and to mimic the micro-structure of the native heart tissue to promote cell adhesion and proliferation. The team also reported extensibility of up to 400% and a high resilience to stretching. The MeTro hydro-gel can also be tuned to select a desirable stiffness and promotes the attachment, spreading, and elongation of cardiomyocytes (cardiac muscle cells) which make up the myocardium.
The researcher’s published their findings in the latest edition of the journal, Advanced Functional Materials. While the new micro-patterned hydro-gel is a long way from reaching patients, it’s flexibility and exceptional performance to date hints at great promise for chronic heart failure patients in the future.
Article in Advanced Functional Materials: Highly Elastic Micropatterned Hydrogel for Engineering Functional Cardiac Tissue