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Duke scientists build a living patch for damaged hearts
Date:5/6/2013

DURHAM, N.C. -- Duke University biomedical engineers have grown three-dimensional human heart muscle that acts just like natural tissue. This advancement could be important in treating heart attack patients or in serving as a platform for testing new heart disease medicines.

The "heart patch" grown in the laboratory from human cells overcomes two major obstacles facing cell-based therapies the patch conducts electricity at about the same speed as natural heart cells and it "squeezes" appropriately. Earlier attempts to create functional heart patches have largely been unable to overcome those obstacles.

The source cells used by the Duke researchers were human embryonic stem cells. These cells are pluripotent, which means that when given the right chemical and physical signals, they can be coaxed by scientists to become any kind of cell in this case heart muscle cells, known as cardiomyocytes.

"The structural and functional properties of these 3-D tissue patches surpass all previous reports for engineered human heart muscle," said Nenad Bursac, associate professor of biomedical engineering at Duke's Pratt School of Engineering. "This is the closest man-made approximation of native human heart tissue to date."

The results of Bursac's research, which is supported by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, were published on-line in the journal Biomaterials.

Bursac said this approach does not involve genetic manipulation of cells.

"In past studies, human stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes were not able to both rapidly conduct electrical activity and strongly contract as well as normal cardiomyocytes," Bursac said. "Through optimization of a three-dimensional environment for cell growth, we were able to 'push' cardiomyocytes to reach unprecedented levels of electrical and mechanical maturation."

The rate of functional maturation is an important element for the patch to become practical. In a d
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Contact: Richard Merritt
richard.merritt@duke.edu
919-660-8414
Duke University
Source:Eurekalert

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