23 August 2016
Scientists have developed a new type of injectable gel with the potential to strengthen weak areas of the heart and prevent heart failure.
Led by a University of Pennsylvania team, the research utilised hydrogels, water-swollen networks of polymer chains based on hyaluronic acid, a type of sugar molecule that occurs naturally in the body.
Two variants of the hydrogel materials are already in clinical trials and are administered by being injected into the damaged tissue through a long catheter inserted through the skin. This removes the need for open-chest surgery.
Tests with one of these gels shows it is able to limit the formation of scar tissue, the thinning of the heart's walls and enlargement of the heart; by preserving the organ's size, it can also reduce leakage of blood through the mitral valve.
It is believed that different types of hydrogels could be tailored to suit different patients' needs, with work now being done to identify properties that would be useful in treating heart attack patients, before designing hydrogels to offer those specific properties.
Dr Jason Burdick, leader of the study, said: "It's important we all keep moving forward to figure out how this therapy could be used, because it's different than any current treatment."
Posted by Philip Briggs
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