Potential game changing gel can repair damaged hearts

There are currently no treatments that can repair the damage associated with this so-called ‘myocardial infarction’ (MI), but a potential solution is now showing promise in a large-animal model. Reporting today in Science Translational Medicine, a team of bioengineers at the University of California–San Diego (UCSD) has developed a protein-rich gel that appears to help repair cardiac muscle in a pig model of MI.

The researchers delivered the hydrogel via a catheter directly into the damaged regions of the porcine heart, and showed that the product promoted cellular regeneration and improved cardiac function after a heart attack. Compared to placebo-treated animals, the pigs that received a hydrogel injection displayed a 30% increase in heart volume, a 20% improvement in heart wall movement and a 10% reduction in the amount of scar tissue scar three months out from their heart attacks. “We hope this will be a game-changing technology that can actually prevent heart failure after heart attack,” says UCSD’s Karen Christman, who led the study.

Christman and her team developed their hydrogel by stripping muscle cells from pig hearts, leaving behind a network of proteins that naturally self-assembles into a porous and fibrous scaffold upon injection into heart tissue. They previously tested its safety and efficacy in rats, where they found increased cardiac function and no toxicity or cross-species reactivity.

Christman has already formed a company based on the technology, called Ventrix, and she hopes to move the product into human safety trials within the year.

Science Translational Medicine -Safety and Efficacy of an Injectable Extracellular Matrix Hydrogel for Treating Myocardial Infarction

ABSTRACT – New therapies are needed to prevent heart failure after myocardial infarction (MI). As experimental treatment strategies for MI approach translation, safety and efficacy must be established in relevant animal models that mimic the clinical situation. We have developed an injectable hydrogel derived from porcine myocardial extracellular matrix as a scaffold for cardiac repair after MI. We establish the safety and efficacy of this injectable biomaterial in large- and small-animal studies that simulate the clinical setting. Infarcted pigs were treated with percutaneous transendocardial injections of the myocardial matrix hydrogel 2 weeks after MI and evaluated after 3 months. Echocardiography indicated improvement in cardiac function, ventricular volumes, and global wall motion scores. Furthermore, a significantly larger zone of cardiac muscle was found at the endocardium in matrix-injected pigs compared to controls. In rats, we establish the safety of this biomaterial and explore the host response via direct injection into the left ventricular lumen and in an inflammation study, both of which support the biocompatibility of this material. Hemocompatibility studies with human blood indicate that exposure to the material at relevant concentrations does not affect clotting times or platelet activation. This work therefore provides a strong platform to move forward in clinical studies with this cardiac-specific biomaterial that can be delivered by catheter.

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