Western developed patch aims to restore function to damaged heart

A new cardiac patch designed by a Western University professor could help heart attack survivors avoid a transplant by restoring blood pumping function to the organ.

Western Engineering professor Kibret Mequanint, with the help of collaborators at the University of Manitoba, developed the new shape-shifting patch. Unlike other cardiac patches, this one can be folded and squeezed into a syringe or catheter and then injected and transported to the heart where it unfolds into its original shape and integrates to the heart muscle.

“To date, delivery of cardiac patches almost always requires an open-chest surgery,” Mequanint, renowned expert in biomaterials, tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, said in a statement. “These patches are also not electrically conductive, meaning they cannot integrate to the heart muscle for functional recovery.”

Western University Engineering professor Kibret Mequanint. Photo courtesy of Western University.

Western University Engineering professor Kibret Mequanint.

Scar tissue that develops after a heart attack weakens the heart muscle and makes it difficult for the organ to pump enough blood to the body. But the new conductive and injectable cardiac patch was able to restore majority function when tested on a damaged heart in an animal model.

“There are electrical signals running through the heart so when you introduce a cardiac patch, the kind of which developed before, it’s reinforced but the signal is also blocked and that’s a problem,” said Mequanint. “There is no conduction anymore, so the heart doesn’t function properly.”

Mequanint’s patch is made from elastin, gelatin, and carbon nanotube with embedded cardiac cells, making it highly conductive and ultra-flexible.

In Canada, there are on average more than 35,000 heart attacks per year, but only 200 heart transplants are performed annually. That has led to a lengthy transplant waiting list in the country. It is hoped the new patch will reduce the number of people requiring transplant after heart failure.

“There just aren’t enough donors so we need other solutions, and we think we have one with our new conductive and injectable cardiac patch,” said Mequanint.

The new patch, detailed in a study published Thursday by the Nature Biomedical Engineering journal, has not yet been tested on a human heart.

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