Tiny Patch Beats Like Human Heart, Could Change Treatment After Heart Attacks

April 14, 2017 08:05 PM

For Brenda Ogle, it was like winning the lottery. 

After 15 years of trial and error, the biomedical engineer at the University of Minnesota successfully created a revolutionary patch using 3D printing technology that can help heal scarred heart tissue after a heart attack.


"I've always been interested in the heart and repair for the heart," she said.

Ogle worked with a team of biomedical engineering researchers, led by the University of Minnesota. The discovery is a major step forward in treating patients with tissue damage after a heart attack.

According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the top cause of death in the U.S. - killing more than 360,000 people a year.

During a heart attack, a person loses blood flow to the heart muscle which causes cells to die. The human body can't replace those heart muscle cells, so the body forms scar tissue in that area of the heart.

That puts the person at risk for compromised heart function and future heart failure.

"We don't get new muscle cells when it's damaged," Ogle explained. "Instead, we get scar tissue."

In the study, researchers from the University of Minnesota, University of Wisconsin and University of Alabama-Birmingham used laser-based 3D-bioprinting techniques to incorporate stem cells derived from adult human heart cells on a matrix that began to grow and beat synchronously in a dish in the lab. 

"And it started to beat, they knew what to do, and at that point we thought this really could be a therapy for the heart," Ogle said.

Researchers, including Ogle's graduate assistant Molly Kupfer, tested the effectiveness of the patch on mice after stimulating heart attacks. They found the patch helped reverse damage and improve function after four weeks.

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, University of Minnesota Lillehei Heart Institute and University of Minnesota Institute for Engineering in Medicine.

Ogle said they would next be testing the patch on the hearts of a larger animal. The hope is to progress to human clinical trials. 

"This is a significant step forward in treating the No. 1 cause of death in the U.S.," Ogle said.


Matt Belanger

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