Scientists have developed a heart patch from millions of living, beating stem cells that could help heal heart attack damage.
Grown in a lab from a sample of a patient’s own stem cells, the patches are sewn on to the heart and subsequently turn into healthy, working muscle. After three days, the patches start to beat, and after one month, they mimic mature heart tissue. They also release chemicals that stimulate the repair and regeneration of existing heart cells.
Tests involving rabbits showed that the patches appear safe and led to an improvement in the function of the heart following a heart attack.
A heart attack occurs when a clogged artery leads to the flow of oxygen blood to the heart muscle being disrupted. This causes the heart to be starved of oxygen and vital nutrients, resulting in its pumping power being damaged.
The British Heart Foundation (BHF) said the patches could one day provide an off-the-shelf treatment for patients who have experienced a heart attack. Clinical trials involving humans are set to begin within two years.
Speaking about the patches, Researcher Dr Richard Jabbour said: “One day, we hope to add heart patches to the treatments that doctors can routinely offer people after a heart attack.
“We could prescribe one of these patches alongside medicines for someone with heart failure, which you could take from a shelf and implant straight in to a person.”