Could nanotechnology improve treatment of heart attack and heart failure?

September 30, 2011 by MassDevice

Doctors and researchers at Children's Hospital Boston and MIT study alternative ways to strengthen weakened heart tissue using nanotechnology.

Gold nanowires studding the
pore walls of the scaffolding
material holding the cells.

By Nancy Fliesler

People who have had a heart attack or have coronary artery disease often sustain damage that weakens their heart. Milder forms of heart failure can be treated with medications, but advanced heart dysfunction requires surgery or heart transplant. A team of physicians, engineers and materials scientists at Children’s Hospital Boston and MIT offers two alternative ways to strengthen weakened, scarred heart tissue — both involving nanotechnology.

One approach blends nanotechnology with tissue engineering to create a heart patch laced with gold whose cells all beat in time – as shown in the above video.

The other uses minute nanoparticles that can find their way to dying heart tissue, carrying stem cells, growth factors, drugs and other therapeutic compounds.

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A heart of gold

Tissue-engineered cardiac patches are starting to go into clinical trials for heart patients.They’re made by seeding heart cells onto porous scaffolds that give the tissue shape and organization. But there’s one problem: The heart is an electrically conductive organ, and the scaffolding used for the patches isn’t conductive, so the tissue doesn’t contract as normal heart tissue does.

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