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The new hydrogel can repair damage to heart cells caused by heart attacks | Photo source Jesse Orrico on Unsplash

Injectable gel helps repair damage from heart attacks

Health & Wellbeing

A biodegradable gel could help heart attack victims to regrow heart muscle

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Spotted: In the UK, there are around 1.4 million people alive today who have survived a heart attack, and more than 900,000 people living with heart failure. These people are all at high risk of further heart attacks and illness. But hope may be near. Researchers at the University of Manchester have developed a biodegradable gel that can be injected into the heart and provide a scaffold for the growth of new tissue following heart attacks.

The gel is composed of chains of amino acids called peptides, which act as the building blocks of proteins. When the gel is under pressure, as in a syringe, the peptides act like a liquid, so it can be injected. However, once the stress is removed, the peptides behave like a solid and hold new heart cells in place as they graft onto the heart.

Early experiments on mice have shown signs of blood vessel growth into the gel, demonstrating the technology could be used to support growth of new heart muscle tissue. Echocardiograms (ultrasounds of the heart) and electrocardiograms (which measure the electrical activity of the heart) confirmed that the injection is safe. When the researchers tested the gel in vivo, adding human cells that had been ‘programmed’ to become heart muscle cells, the cells started to spontaneously beat.

Katharine King, a PhD student who led this research explained that, although much more work needs to be done, the technique holds great promise. “While it’s still early days, the potential this new technology has in helping to repair failing hearts after a heart attack is huge. We’re confident that this gel will be an effective option for future cell-based therapies to help the damaged heart to regenerate,” she said.

Because heart disease is a major killer, it is the focus of a great deal of research by scientists, pharmaceutical companies, and startups. Springwise has recently spotted a number of advances in areas such as sensors for tracking heart rhythm and tests for identifying risks early. 

Written By: Lisa Magloff



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