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Patching up a broken heart

last modified Jun 21, 2017 09:42 AM
Patching up a broken heart

Image credit: Jonathan Settle (University of Cambridge) and The District

Scientists at the Cambridge Stem Cell Institute (CSCI) are developing heart patches from stem cells in the hopes of repairing tissue damage following heart attack. 

Using embryonic and adult stem cells, the research team led by Dr Sanjay Sinha, produced the correct mix of heart cells needed to make functional cardiac tissue.  These cells were then grown together on a biological scaffold developed by material scientists Prof Serena Best and Prof Ruth Cameron, and biochemist Prof Richard Farndale.  This unique combination of stem cells and scaffold allowed patches of functioning heart tissue to be grown, which could be used to repair tissue weakened by heart attack or heart failure. 

 “In the past, people have tried injecting cardiomyocytes into damaged hearts in animal models and shown that they can restore some of the muscle that’s been lost. But even in in the best possible hands, ninety percent of the cells you inject are lost because of the hostile environment” says Dr Sinha.

This new technique could significantly improve recovery following a heart attack, where millions of heart cells can be damaged and lost.  This condition affects half a million patients in the UK today and at present, treatment options can only improve the symptoms. Being able to replace the damaged heart cells would enable these hearts to work properly again.

This pioneering stem cell research is the focus of an article in the latest edition of the University of Cambridge’s research magazine ‘Research Horizons’.  You can read the piece in full here.