CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--Broken hearts could one day be mended using a novel scaffold developed by MIT researchers and colleagues.
The idea is that living heart cells or stem cells seeded onto such a scaffold would develop into a patch of cardiac tissue that could be used to treat congenital heart defects, or aid the recovery of tissue damaged by a heart attack. The biodegradable scaffold would be gradually absorbed into the body, leaving behind new tissue.
The accordion-like honeycomb scaffold, to be reported in the Nov. 2 online edition of Nature Materials, is the first to be explicitly designed to match the structural and mechanical properties of native heart tissue. As a result, it has several advantages over previous cardiac tissue engineering scaffolds.
Further, the MIT team's general approach has applications to other types of engineered tissues. "In the long term we'd like to have a whole library of scaffolds for different tissues in need of repair," said Lisa E. Freed, corresponding author of the paper and a principal research scientist in the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology (HST). Each scaffold could be tailor-made with specific structural and mechanical properties. "We're already on the way to a few other examples," Freed said.
With respect to the current work, "previous scaffolds did not necessarily possess structural or mechanical properties consistent with the native myocardial [heart muscle] structure," said George C. Engelmayr Jr., lead author of the paper and an HST postdoctoral fellow. Heart muscle, he explained, is "directionally dependent" meaning its cells are aligned in specific directions.
The researchers reasoned that "borrowing more closely from nature's lessons," as they write in Nature Materials, might lead to a tissue with properties closer to the real thing. So, using a laser similar to that used for eye surgery, they created a scaffold with directionally dependen
|Contact: Elizabeth Thomson|
Massachusetts Institute of Technology