Nanofiber patch could regenerate dead areas of heart


May 20, 2011

A newly-created carbon nanofiber patch could be used to regenerate heart cells, killed by heart attacks (Photo: Frank Mullin/Brown University)

A newly-created carbon nanofiber patch could be used to regenerate heart cells, killed by heart attacks (Photo: Frank Mullin/Brown University)

When someone has a heart attack, the cells in the affected area of the heart die off, and the damage can't be repaired. In the not-so-distant future, however, that may not be the case. Engineers from Rhode Island's Brown University, working with colleagues in India, have created a carbon nanofiber patch that has been shown to regenerate heart cells. It is hoped that such patches could eventually be placed on the heart, like a Band-Aid, to regrow dead areas.

The patch itself is 22 millimeters long, 15 microns thick, has a scaffold-like structure, and can expand and contract like heart tissue. It is made from a government-approved polymer and carbon nanofibers. The fibers are said to be excellent conductors of electrons, and so are able to transmit the electrical impulses that the heart uses in order to maintain a steady beat.

The Brown team laid the patch on a glass substrate, then seeded its nanofibers with heart cells known as cardiomyocytes. After four hours, five times as many cells had colonized the nanofiber patch, than a control patch that consisted of the polymer only. This figure rose to six times the cell density, after five days. Additionally, after four days, the density of neurons on the nanofiber patch had doubled.

According to the engineers, the elasticity of the scaffolding and the electrical qualities of the nanofibers are what makes it such an ideal spawning ground for the cardiomyocytes and neurons.

There is still work to be done, however. The team now wants to alter the pattern of the scaffolding in order to better mimic the heart's electrical current, along with placing a patch in a live subject to see how it handles the heart's voltage and beat regime. They also want to confirm that the cardiomyocytes which grow on the patch are able to function in the same ways as regular heart cells.

The research, which was conducted in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur, was recently published in the journal Acta Biomaterialia.

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

yay one step closer to immortality... plz let it b in my life time.

Jerome Afro-jab

What caused the vessels of the heart muscle to stop supplying blood? Is that not the problem? Blood flow and the oxygen it carries? In our study based on those who have EKG as part of their heart health, their doctors are surprised when their EKG, a measure of electrical energy across the heart returns to normal. 54 open heart procedures, cancelled due to a normal EKG with sulfur twice a day, generally 6 weeks.

The cells of the blood vessels repair and then the muscle repairs as its supply of blood is returned, its plumbing. Prior to 1960 the diet of the India did not promote heart disease, then chemical fertilizers came into favor and the newest Hospital built in New Delhi is only for cardiovascular surgery. We are what we eat, not what we wear on our heart.

Patrick McGean

Patrick McGean

When will medical science develop a "patch," or whatever, that will regenerate the blood vessels, that are progressively clogged up, a condition that seems to afflict half the population, and that supply life-saving oxygen to the heart? The body already does a minimal job, for some heart patients, in this regard, with "collateral circulation," suggesting that little more than a way to enhance this innate, but barely life-saving process, would save vastly more lives.

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