patch for the heart can save lives
Science tends to move at a snail pace, till at certain points in time, it makes leaps as one research or another reaches a peak.
This is one of those times. Recently, a team of scientists from Tel Aviv university in Israel, developed a special patch (cyborg heart patch).
It incorporates a mesh of biological cells and nano electronics to be transplanted into patients with cardiac diseases, and allow real-time correction and addressing of issues (such as impending heart attacks for instance).
Dr. Tal Dvir, who leads the research, says:
With this heart patch, we have integrated electronics and living tissue, It’s very science fiction, but it’s already here, and we expect it to move cardiac research forward in a big way.
The idea of the patch is to allow doctors to remotely treat patients who have permanent cardiac tissue damage as a result of heart attack or cardiac disease.
Explaining how this would work, is Dr. Dvir:
Imagine that a patient is just sitting at home, not feeling well. His physician will be able to log onto his computer and this patient’s file – in real-time. He can view data sent remotely from sensors embedded in the engineered tissue and assess exactly how his patient is doing. He can intervene to properly pace the heart and activate drugs to regenerate tissue from afar.
The longer-term goal is for the cardiac patch to be able to regulate its own welfare. In other words, if it senses inflammation, it will release an anti-inflammatory drug. If it senses a lack of oxygen, it will release molecules that recruit blood-vessel-forming cells to the heart.
To address this immunogenic response, the team suggested a new approach. Fatty tissue from a patient’s own stomach could be easily and quickly harvested, its cells efficiently removed and the remaining matrix preserved.
This scaffold does not provoke an immune response. The second dilemma – to establish functional network signals – was complicated by the use of the human extracellular matrix.
Engineered patches do not establish connections immediately,
Bio-material harvested for a matrix tends to be insulating and thus disruptive to network signals.
Dvir explored in his lab the integration of gold nano-particles into cardiac tissue to optimize electrical signaling between cells. Preliminary test results of the hybrid patch in animals have been positive.
We now have to prove that these autologous hybrid cardiac patches improve heart function after heart attacks with minimal immune response,
Then we plan to move it to large animals and after that, to clinical trials.
This is a breakthrough, to be sure
But I would not suggest binging on cheeseburgers or quitting sports just yet. The practical realization of the technology may take some time. Meanwhile, a healthy lifestyle is still the best way to keep your heart healthy.