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Injected 'Hydrogel' May Help Repair Failing Hearts
Date:2/20/2013

By Carina Storrs
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 20 (HealthDay News) -- An injected "hydrogel" could someday become a nonsurgical means of repairing damaged cardiac tissue in patients with heart failure, a new study suggests.

The material used is based on pig heart tissue. It has proven effective when tested in pigs with failing hearts, and may be a step closer to being an option for patients.

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, demonstrated that they could inject the hydrogel into the hearts of pigs two weeks after a heart attack and prevent the loss of cardiac muscle and other changes that can eventually lead to heart failure.

"After a heart attack, not only do cells die but the natural scaffold where the cells sit gets degraded and cleared," explained lead researcher Karen Christman, an assistant professor of bioengineering at UCSD.

"We think the hydrogel provides a temporary physical scaffold that allows the body's own surviving heart cells to repopulate that area, and allows new blood vessels and stem cells to come in, and the net result is we get more cardiac muscle in that region," she said.

So far, the research suggests that the pig-derived hydrogel could be well tolerated by other species. The researchers also injected the material into rat hearts and did not see the type of inflammation that indicates the body is rejecting the material.

This immune tolerance is probably due to the fact that the researchers wash away all the cells from the pig hearts, so that all that is left in the hydrogel are proteins and sugars, Christman explained. Once the proteins are injected into the heart, they self-assemble into a "tangled mess of fibers" that becomes the scaffold, she said.

If the hydrogel makes it to market, it would not be the first pig-derived clinical product. According to Christman, more than one million people have been implanted with material made from pi
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