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Scientists repair heart attacks with engineered tissue

October 9th, 2007

Research by University of Louisville professors at the Cardiovascular Innovation Institute shows that it may be possible to one day repair a person’s heart after a heart attack by using a “patch” grown from his or her own cells.

Professors Stuart Williams and Jay Hoying have demonstrated that tissue containing small blood vessels can be grown in three dimensions in the laboratory with cells taken from a mouse’s own heart and transplanted to the surface of the heart after an acute heart attack.

Their findings were published Oct. 9 in the journal Tissue Engineering.

In many types of heart attacks, the primary damage to the heart is caused by lack of blood flow — and its accompanying oxygen — to parts of the heart muscle. The affected areas of the heart can die, forming scar tissue that affects the overall function of the heart because it no longer contains a network of small blood vessels that bring energy to that part of the heart muscle.

The Cardiovascular Innovation Institute team, in collaboration with a colleague from Yale University, is investigating whether laboratory-grown heart patches, designed to contain the muscle’s natural network of tiny blood vessels, can be transplanted to repair the heart after a heart attack.

The condition of the tissue, blood vessel networks and overall heart function were evaluated at seven, 14 and 28 days after the mouse tissue transplants took place.

The scientists found that as early as seven days after the transplant the small blood vessels began to grow together with the host heart’s blood vessel network. Fourteen and 28 days after transplant, heart function continued to improve and the dead tissue area caused by the heart attack was smaller. The engineered tissue itself grew and integrated with the host heart tissue.

“This study is very promising for future cardiac repair and regeneration in humans,” Williams said.

“We continue to investigate the use of heart patches. Previous studies using a cell-based heart patch have now entered Phase I clinical trials in humans. This latest study represents a new generation of heart patch that can be created using a patient’s own cells,” he added.

A partnership between the University of Louisville and Jewish Hospital, CII strives to improve quality of life for heart failure patients by building on the success of both organizations’ previous work with ventricular assist devices and artificial hearts.

CII’s state-of-the-art building opened in January 2007 and includes expanded research facilities, training and administrative space. It is equipped with the latest technology. Funding for the facility includes a $15 million investment from Jewish Hospital; $6.2 million in federal earmarks secured by Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; $4.2 million invested by the University of Louisville; a $5 million grant from Kosair Charities; $5.5 million from the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development and the Department of Commercialization and Innovation; and $1.5 million from the Gheens Foundation.

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