Repairing defective hearts with tissue engineering

November 3rd, 2008 - 11:42 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, Nov 3 (IANS) Damaged heart tissues could be mended in future with the help of a scaffold developed by MIT and Harvard researchers. The idea is that living heart cells or stem cells seeded onto such a scaffold would develop into a patch of cardiac tissue that could be used to treat congenital heart defects, or help tissue damaged by a heart attack recover.

The biodegradable scaffold would be gradually absorbed into the body, leaving behind new tissue. The accordion-like honeycomb scaffold is the first to be explicitly designed to match the structural and mechanical properties of original heart tissue. Hence, it has several advantages over previous cardiac tissue engineering scaffolds.

Further, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) team’s general approach can be applied to other types of engineered tissues.

“In the long term we’d like to have a whole library of scaffolds for different tissues in need of repair,” said Lisa E. Freed, study co-author and principal research scientist in the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology (HST), according to an MIT release.

Each scaffold could be tailor-made with specific structural and mechanical properties. “We’re already on the way to a few other examples,” Freed said.

With respect to the current work, “previous scaffolds did not necessarily possess structural or mechanical properties consistent with the native myocardial [heart muscle] structure,” said George C. Engelmayr Jr., co-author of the paper and an HST postdoctoral fellow.

The researchers reasoned that “borrowing more closely from nature’s lessons” might lead to a tissue with properties closer to the real thing.

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