August 09, 2010
Scaffolding Helps Repair Heart Tissue

After a heart attack it might be possible to guide cells to do repairs that prevent deadly scar formation.

These days people usually don't die from a heart attack. But the damage to heart muscle is irreversible, and most patients eventually succumb to congestive heart failure, the most common cause of death in developed countries.

Stem cells now offer hope for achieving what the body can't do: mending broken hearts. Engineers and physicians at the University of Washington have built a scaffold that supports the growth and integration of stem cell-derived cardiac muscle cells. A description of the scaffold, which supports the growth of cardiac cells in the lab and encourages blood vessel growth in living animals, is published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Tissue engineering is all about creating scaffolding that provides a structure for cells to organize to create new tissues.

Ratner and his colleagues built a tiny tubular porous scaffold that supports and stabilizes the fragile cardiac cells and can be injected into a damaged heart, where it will foster cell growth and eventually dissolve away. The new scaffold not only supports cardiac muscle growth, but potentially accelerates the body's ability to supply oxygen and nutrients to the transplanted tissue. Eventually, the idea is that doctors would seed the scaffold with stem cells from either the patient or a donor, then implant it when the patient is treated for a heart attack, before scar tissue has formed.

The scaffold material was tested in a living rat's heart.

Researchers also implanted a bare scaffold into a living rat's heart to verify the scaffold's biocompatibility. Results showed that after four weeks the heart had accepted the foreign body, and new blood vessels had penetrated into the scaffold.

Embryonic stem cell research gets a lot of press attention. But tissue engineering as a field seems more challenged by how to create 3-D scaffolding structures that will guide cells to form tissue to repair 3-D structures in existing organs.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 August 09 11:57 PM  Biotech Tissue Engineering

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