Can a needle covered patch heal a damaged heart?
Now, an international team of researchers thinks it’s found a solution: a tiny patch covered in microneedles that deliver the stem cells directly into heart tissue.
To see if their patch might be an improvement on existing delivery methods, such as direct muscle injection or intravascular infusion, the researchers tested it on both rats and pigs, a process they describe in a paper published in Science Advances on Wednesday.
First, they induced the animals to have heart attacks. Then they placed versions of the patches containing cardiac stem cells directly onto some of the animals’ damaged hearts during open heart surgery.
When they later examined the animals’ hearts, they found that those of the rats that received the patches exhibited less cell death as well as the development of new heart tissue. Meanwhile, the treated pigs’ hearts pumped out more blood than the hearts of untreated pigs.
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Before testing their patch in humans, the researchers want to replace its polymer base with something that will dissolve in the body, researcher Ke Cheng told Science News. They’re also hoping to figure out an implantation method that wouldn’t require open-heart surgery.
Of course, success in animal testing doesn’t always indicate that a treatment will work in humans. Still, if the patch does produce the same results in human trials as it did in animal ones, the tiny device could one day be a game-changing — and potentially life-saving — cardiac therapy.
READ MORE: A Patch Studded With Tiny Needles May Help Heart Attack Survivors Recover [Science News]
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