Summer 2017

Patching a damaged heart

Illustration by MIGUEL DAVILLA

A team led by University of Min-nesota biomedical engineering researchers has created a revolutionary 3-D bioprinted patch that can help heal scarred tissue caused by a heart attack. 

During a heart attack, a person loses blood flow to the heart muscle, and cells die. Because the body can’t replace those cells, it forms scar tissue, which puts the heart at risk of compromised function and eventual failure.

U researchers partnered with colleagues at other universities on laser-based 3-D bioprinting techniques to incorporate stem cells derived from adult human heart cells on a matrix that began to grow and beat in a dish.

When they placed the patch on a damaged mouse heart, the researchers saw a significant increase in functional capacity after four weeks. Because the patch was made from cells and structural proteins native to the heart, it was absorbed into the body and became part of the heart.

The group has filed a patent on the discovery, the development of which was supported in part by gifts to the University’s Lillehei Heart Institute.

“We feel that we could scale this up to repair hearts of larger animals and possibly even humans within the next several years,” says Brenda Ogle, an associate professor of biomedical engineering and a member of the U’s Stem Cell Institute.

The team already has begun to develop a larger patch to test on a pig heart, which is similar in size to a human heart.