Canadian scientists have developed 'smart scaffolds' that can assist the body to mend broken heart tissues.
Usually treatments of heart disease or muscle loss can just help the body cope up with the chronic condition.
But, for the first time, researchers have developed an organic substance that attracts and supports cells necessary for tissue repair and can be directly injected into problem areas.
The advance can act as a major step toward treatments that allow people to more fully recover from injury and disease rather than having to live with chronic health problems.
Also, the treatment may help reduce the need for organ transplantation by allowing physicians to save organs that would have been previously damaged beyond repair.
eveloped by Erik Suuronen and his colleagues from the University of Ottawa and the Ottawa Heart Research Institute, the "smart scaffolds," work because they contain a protein that allows progenitor cells to adhere to the damaged tissue and survive long enough to promote healing.
The cells emit homing signals that alert other cells to join in the process and give off chemical signals that order cells to grow blood vessels necessary for healing to occur.
"Ultimately, we envision a scaffold material that can be taken off the shelf and injected into the hearts of patients suffering from blocked arteries. The scaffold materials would direct the repair process, and restore blood flow and function to the heart," said Suuronen.
For the study, the researchers tested the material in three groups of rats, with each group suffering from a lack of blood oxygen (ischemia) to their thigh muscles.
The muscles in the first group of rats were treated with the smart scaffold. The second group of rats received a scaffold not engineered for cell attachment. The third group received a placebo.
After two weeks of treatment, rats treated with the "smart" scaffold had more new blood vessels and better functional recovery while rats from the other two groups of rats only had minimal improvement.
"This is a major development toward radically new treatments for heart and muscle disease. If this research holds up in humans, it has the potential to save more lives than any other major advance in the field since the stent," said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal.
The study is published online in The FASEB Journal.