For all that Johnson & Johnson seems to have been able to create over the years, a Band-Aid to mend a broken heart is, unfortunately, not one of them. Not to knock a great company, but more to highlight some recent incredible achievements in the field of bio-engineering and medicine.
Research done by David Stout, a biomedical engineering PhD student in the lab of Dr. Thomas Webster of Brown University, may serve to fill in this hole in our hearts – literally. His work, published in Acta Biomaterialia, explains the creation of a nanopatch, veritable band-aid, for the heart.
When you suffer a heart attack, the cells of the damaged tissue, critical for keeping the heart beating in perfect rhythm, are lost forever. Surgeons aren’t able to repair this tissue; we just have to try to get along with what’s left. According to the American Heart Association, 785,000 Americans suffered a new heart attack linked to weakness caused by the scarred cardiac muscle from a previous heart attack, according to the American Heart Association.
This is a terrible practice for medicine to have adopted, and we should be doing anything possible to figure out how to stimulate repair of that damaged tissue to help heart attack patients. Enter David.
In his lab, they created a small patch made of carbon nanofibers (microscopic tubes). They used these because they are good electrical conductors, which is important in an organ like the heart, where electrical signals keep things beating. It’s also elastic and very durable, allowing it remain intact on the beating, flexing surface of the heart.The scientists stitched these fibers together with a special glue-like polymer to create what looks like a black Band-Aid, seen above.
In their experiments, there were able to see that this nanopatch formed a good surface upon which the cardiac cells of the heart were able to grow. The idea is, after a few tweaks and further testing, that we could apply a similar patch to the heart where it’s needed. In theory, this would provide a scaffold for new cells to repopulate and resuscitate the damaged tissue. Truly, a bandage to mend a broken heart. Let’s just hope it doesn’t hurt as much coming off as its predecessors.
Thanks & Gig ‘Em.