Scientists create patch to repair damage caused by heart attacks

Biomedical engineers at Duke University developed a "heart patch" to cover and repair heart tissue damaged by heart attacks that's just as strong and active as real tissue.

The study surrounding the advancement, published in Nature Communications, details how this new patch is an enormous step forward in repairing dead heart muscle.

"Right now, virtually all existing therapies are aimed at reducing the symptoms from the damage that's already been done to the heart, but no approaches have been able to replace the muscle that's lost, because once it's dead, it does not grow back on its own," they study's lead author, Ilya Shadrin told the Duke University Pratt School of Engineering. "This is a way that we could replace lost muscle with tissue made outside the body."

After a heart attack, the damaged parts of the heart tissue die and do not regenerate. Instead, the heart develops scar tissue that cannot transport electrical signals - essential for proper beats - like a healthy heart does. With scar tissue, a person typically suffers from heart failure and other deadly complications. Over 12 million people worldwide experience these side effects.

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Beverly Hills, CA - August 16: Assistant Audrey Fianza doses from a syringe cells prepared for stem cell therapies for a patient after being spun in the 'Time Machine' centrifuge in the office of Dr. Mark Berman on Tuesday, August 16, 2016 in Beverly Hills, CA. The stem cells are extracted via liposuction of fat cells which are spun in a specially patented 'Time Machine' centrifuge. Berman uses the cells not only for cosmetic procedures but also for orthopedic injuries, ALS, MS, Parkinson, and more, with a network of clinics around the U.S. (Photo by Patrick T. Fallon for The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Beverly Hills, CA - August 16: Assistant Audrey Fianza transfers between two syringes cells retrieved for stem cell therapies from a patient after being spun in the 'Time Machine' centrifuge in the office of Dr. Mark Berman on Tuesday, August 16, 2016 in Beverly Hills, CA. The stem cells are extracted via liposuction of fat cells which are spun in a specially patented 'Time Machine' centrifuge. Berman uses the cells not only for cosmetic procedures but also for orthopedic injuries, ALS, MS, Parkinson, and more, with a network of clinics around the U.S. (Photo by Patrick T. Fallon for The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Beverly Hills, CA - August 16: Dr. Mark Berman injects a syringe of cells used for stem cell therapies on the shoulder of patient Anthony Lekkos in his office on Tuesday, August 16, 2016 in Beverly Hills, CA. The stem cells are extracted via liposuction of fat cells which are spun in a specially patented 'Time Machine' centrifuge. Berman uses the cells not only for cosmetic procedures but also for orthopedic injuries, ALS, MS, Parkinson, and more, with a network of clinics around the U.S. (Photo by Patrick T. Fallon for The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Beverly Hills, CA - August 16: Assistant Audrey Fianza doses from a syringe cells prepared for stem cell therapies for a patient after being spun in the 'Time Machine' centrifuge in the office of Dr. Mark Berman on Tuesday, August 16, 2016 in Beverly Hills, CA. The stem cells are extracted via liposuction of fat cells which are spun in a specially patented 'Time Machine' centrifuge. Berman uses the cells not only for cosmetic procedures but also for orthopedic injuries, ALS, MS, Parkinson, and more, with a network of clinics around the U.S. (Photo by Patrick T. Fallon for The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Beverly Hills, CA - August 16: Assistant Audrey Fianza transfers between two syringes cells retrieved for stem cell therapies from a patient after being spun in the 'Time Machine' centrifuge in the office of Dr. Mark Berman on Tuesday, August 16, 2016 in Beverly Hills, CA. The stem cells are extracted via liposuction of fat cells which are spun in a specially patented 'Time Machine' centrifuge. Berman uses the cells not only for cosmetic procedures but also for orthopedic injuries, ALS, MS, Parkinson, and more, with a network of clinics around the U.S. (Photo by Patrick T. Fallon for The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Beverly Hills, CA - August 16: Dr. Mark Berman performs liposuction to retrieve fat for stem cell therapies from a patient in his office on Tuesday, August 16, 2016 in Beverly Hills, CA. The stem cells are extracted via liposuction of fat cells which are spun in a specially patented 'Time Machine' centrifuge. Berman uses the cells not only for cosmetic procedures but also for orthopedic injuries, ALS, MS, Parkinson, and more, with a network of clinics around the U.S. (Photo by Patrick T. Fallon for The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Beverly Hills, CA - August 16: Assistant Audrey Fianza places a syringe used to retrieve fat for stem cell therapies from a patient into the 'Time Machine' centrifuge in the office of Dr. Mark Berman on Tuesday, August 16, 2016 in Beverly Hills, CA. The stem cells are extracted via liposuction of fat cells which are spun in a specially patented 'Time Machine' centrifuge. Berman uses the cells not only for cosmetic procedures but also for orthopedic injuries, ALS, MS, Parkinson, and more, with a network of clinics around the U.S. (Photo by Patrick T. Fallon for The Washington Post via Getty Images)
MEXICO CITY, Nov. 10, 2015-- Image taken on Nov. 4, 2015 shows biologist Ricardo Rangel Martinez, operative director of the laboratory of the clinic 'Cambium Therapies', an integral center specialized in alternative regenerative medicine in advanced cell therapy, watching stem cells through the lens of a vide camera, in Mexico City, capital of Mexico. The application of this medicine 'allows the organism to replace damaged cells for healthy ones through diverse processes in determined tissues', said doctor Rafael Sandoval Leon, who works in the clinic 'Cambium Therapies'. Its use has popularized because of its efficiency in Europe and the U.S. (Xinhua/Pedro Mera via Getty Images)
A U.S. heart patient is prepared for a two-hour surgery at Bangkok Heart Hospital in Bangkok December 19, 2005. That will involve injecting stem cells cultivated from his blood into his ailing heart. Stem cell therapies have spawned controversy because very early human embryos are considered by many to be the most promising for treating human diseases. Picture taken December 19, 2005. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom
A U.S. heart patient is prepared for a two-hour surgery at Bangkok Heart Hospital in Bangkok December 19, 2005. That will involve injecting stem cells cultivated from his blood into his ailing heart. Stem cell therapies have spawned controversy because very early human embryos are considered by many to be the most promising for treating human diseases. Picture taken December 19, 2005. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom
A Thai doctor performs an experimental stem cell procedure on a patient at Bangkok Heart Hospital in Bangkok December 19, 2005. That involves injecting the patient's heart with cells cultivated from his own blood. Stem cell therapies have spawned controversy because very early human embryos are considered by many to be the most promising for treating human diseases. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom Also see GF2DXCNWLPAA
A Thai doctor holds vials containing stem cells cultivated from a patient's blood at Bangkok Heart Hospital in Bangkok December 19, 2005. Stem cell therapies have spawned controversy because very early human embryos are considered by many to be the most promising for treating human diseases. Picture taken December 19, 2005. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom
- PHOTO TAKEN 19DEC05 - A U.S. heart patient is prepared for a two-hour surgery at Bangkok Heart Hospital in Bangkok December 19, 2005. That will involve injecting stem cells cultivated from his blood into his ailing heart. Stem cell therapies have spawned controversy because very early human embryos are considered by many to be the most promising for treating human diseases. Picture taken December 19, 2005.
MEXICO CITY, Nov. 10, 2015 -- Image taken on Nov. 4, 2015 shows a medic performing the stem cell separation process to apply them to a patient in treatment of regeneration of knee joint, in the clinic 'Cambium Therapies', an integral center specialized in alternative regenerative medicine in advanced cell therapy, in Mexico City, capital of Mexico. The application of this medicine 'allows the organism to replace damaged cells for healthy ones through diverse processes in determined tissues', said doctor Rafael Sandoval Leon, who works in the clinic 'Cambium Therapies'. Its use has popularized because of its efficiency in Europe and the U.S. (Xinhua/Pedro Mera via Getty Images)
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The patch, in theory, would cover the dead muscle and provide a bridge for electrical signals to travel for a long, extended period of time. It also discharges enzymes that promote the recovery of damaged parts of the heart that didn't die after a heart attack.

It's made up of human stem cells derived from embryos and others that were induced into their pluripotent - able to become any cell from any part of the body - state. These stem cells grew cardiomyocyte cells, responsible for the muscle contraction that makes the heart beat; fibroblasts, the framework of the heart tissue; and endothelial and smooth muscle cells, those that create blood vessels. All of the cells are "rocked and swayed" into specific spots onto a jelly-like substance where they grow into the functioning patch.

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Doctor Gustavo Zuniga holds up an Antarctic plant that has molecules that filter the solar radiation and could be used to prevent human DNA damage in Santiago, Chile July 25, 2017.

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Doctor Gustavo Zuniga inspects a cold chamber containing Antarctic plants that have molecules that filter the solar radiation and could be used to prevent human DNA damage in Santiago, Chile July 25, 2017. 

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Doctor Gustavo Zuniga holds up extract from an Antarctic plant that has molecules that filter the solar radiation and could be used to prevent human DNA damage in Santiago, Chile July 25, 2017. 

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"It turns out that rocking the samples to bathe and splash them to improve nutrient delivery is extremely important," Shadrin said. "We obtained three-to-five times better results with the rocking cultures compared to our static samples."

The patches are currently an appropriate size to be tested on rats, a human-sized patch would require a bigger, thicker version that's fully vascularized - something that provides a tissue with blood vessels.

"We are actively working on that, as are others, but for now, we are thrilled to have the 'size matters' part figured out," Shadrin's advisor Nenad Bursac said.

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