Science cannot bring the dead back to life – but scientists have created the world’s first fix for resuscitating dead heart chunks, in work that could pave the way for a dramatic reduction in repeated heart attacks.
Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur scientist Bikramjit Basu and researchers at Brown University in the US have used nanotechnology to create a small synthetic structure that regenerates natural heart tissue cells called cardiomyocites and neurons.
“This can regenerate those heart cells that have died in previous heart attacks,” Basu told HT. The findings, published in the journal Acta Biomaterialia are presently yet to be tested through clinical trials, Basu said. Scientists will now conduct animal trials. “But we believe this could do to dead heart cells what stents do for blocked arteries,” Basu added.
Each time a person suffers a heart attack, a part of his heart dies. The death of nerve cells in the wall of the heart and of cells that keep the heart beating at the right rhythm cannot be reversed at present by surgeons. This dead chunk weakens heart muscles, making the heart more vulnerable to future repeat attacks.
Hundreds of thousands of patients across the work each year are believed to suffer from heart attacks linked to the weakness caused by scarred heart muscle from a previous attack.
But the new research -- funded by fine institutions including the Indian government and IIT Kanpur – has found an approach that could help millions of heart attack patients avoid a repeat.
The scientists used a polymer to stitch together helical-shaped carbon tubes of diameters so small that a 1000 such tubes would be together as thick as a human hair strand, creating a mesh about 2 cm long and as wide as a human hair strand.
When the nanofibers were seeded with natural heart tissue cells, five times as many cells colonized the surface within four hours.