For years, medical researchers have been trying to find a solution to the problem of post-cardiac event health. You see, when a heart attack occurs, the damaged tissue doesn’t grow back, but instead forms non-beating scar tissue. This in turn permanently weakens the heart, making another cardiac event that much more probable.
However, researchers at Tel Aviv University are getting promising results from a possible solution using patches that contain cardiac cells and gold nanofibers. As with other experimental heart patches, the idea behind these ones is that they could be surgically placed on damaged areas of the heart, where they would cause normal, beating heart tissue to grow back.
To create them, a team led by Dr. Tal Dvir started by integrating nanofibers made of gold nanoparticles into a three-dimensional scaffolding made of biomaterials. That scaffolding was then “seeded” with heart muscle cells. The high conductivity of the gold allowed those cells to communicate with one another by sending electrical signals through the network of nanofibers.
When viewed with an electron microscope, the cells were observed to be contracting in unison, which is essential to the proper beating of the heart. By contrast, cells that were placed on scaffolding without the embedded gold nanofibers displayed much weaker contractions. In other experiments, gold nanofibers have proven useful to enhancing heart heath. But in this case, may prove useful to replacing damaged heart tissue.
Naturally, more work is needed before this new heart patch can be made available to patients. This includes human trials, which Dr. Dvir and his colleagues are hoping to conduct soon. Similar research is also being conducted at MIT, where scientists have created electrically conductive tissue scaffolds that include cardiac cells and gold nanowires.
This research is not only a boon for cardiac health, but is also a major step forward in terms of cybernetics, biomimetics, and nanotechnology. By merging the organic and synthetic at the nano level, and in a way that merges with our bodies natural architecture, a new breed of medical solutions are being made available that could make “permanent conditions” a thing of the past.