Heart tissue sustains irreparable damage in the wake of a heart attack. Because cells in the heart cannot multiply and the cardiac muscle contains few stem cells, the tissue is unable to repair itself it becomes fibrotic and cannot contract properly.
In their search for innovative methods to restore heart function, scientists have been exploring cardiac "patches" that could be transplanted into the body to replace damaged heart tissue. Now, in his Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine Laboratory, Dr. Tal Dvir and his PhD student Michal Shevach of Tel Aviv University's Department of Molecular Microbiology and Biotechnology and the Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, together with their colleagues are literally setting a gold standard in cardiac tissue engineering.
To meet one of the biggest challenges in the development of cardiac patches ensuring that engineered tissue can mimic the heart's coordinated electrical system, which controls heartbeat and rhythm they integrated cardiac cells with nanofibers made of gold particles to form functional engineered tissues. Their goal is to optimize electrical signalling between cells.
Gold has been found to increase the connectivity of biomaterials, explains Dr. Dvir. With the addition of the gold particles, cardiac tissues contract much faster and stronger as a whole, he reports, making them more viable for transplants. The research was recently published in the Journal of Materials Chemistry B.
Lending nature a helping hand
On their surface, heart cells contain proteins that are responsible for transferring electrical signals. But the process of tissue engineering itself leads to the loss of these proteins. And while the cells will start to produce them again naturally, says Dr. Dvir, they take time to develop time which a patient may not have. Gold nanofibers can fill the role of electrical connectors until the cells are able to produce the
|Contact: George Hunka|
American Friends of Tel Aviv University