Injectable Gel could help Heart Muscle Regenerate after Heart Attack

Injectable Gel could help Heart Muscle Regenerate after Heart Attack

Injectable pens can be used to regenerate heart muscles by increasing the replication rate of existing cardiomyocytes in the heart, after heart attack

Regenerative medicine is a rapidly emerging field of medicine with the potential to treat cardiovascular diseases, dermal wounds, and congenital diseases, as per a regenerative medicine market report, published by Coherent Market Insights. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Engineering and Applied Science and Perelman School of Medicine on November 29, 2017, have developed an injectable gel that could regenerate the heart muscles after the heart attack. The muscles in the heart contracts and restricts the beat of the heart after injury. The heart pumps less blood with each beat due to the contractile cells, known as cardiomyocytes, which in turn, increases mortality rate associated with heart disease.

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Researchers have used mouse models to demonstrate a new method to restart replication in existing cardiomyocytes. An injectable gel is used that slowly releases short gene structures known as microRNAs into the heart muscle.

Edward Morrisey, Scientific Director of the Penn Institute for Regenerative Medicine in Penn Medicine, said, “Biologic drugs turn over very fast.” He further added, “The microRNAs that we used last less than eight hours in the bloodstream, so having a high local concentration has strong advantages.”

However, the injectable gel has a short lifespan, to treat patients systemically, they would require to be injected often with large doses, in order to ensure the adequate amount of microRNAs to reach the target in the heart. These microRNAs are designed to promote cell replication, this would in turn can produce tumor.

Jason Burdick, Professor in Bioengineering in Penn Engineering, said, “We want to design the right material for a specific drug and application.” He further added, “The most important traits of this gel are that it’s shear-thinning and self-healing. Shear-thinning means it has bonds that can be broken under mechanical stress, making it more fluid and allowing it to flow through a syringe or catheter. Self-healing means that when that stress is removed, the gel’s bonds re-form, allowing it to stay in place within the heart muscle.”

MicroRNAs are protected from degradation by maximizing the lifespan, which can be effective without the risk of them conquering off-target cells.

“There’s likely a time window that the cardiomyocytes are susceptible to this stimulus — maybe a week or two after injury,” Morrisey said. “We want to promote proliferation for a short period and then stop.”

The researchers are focusing on testing human heart cells in vitro and directing physiological experiments in animals with similar hearts to that of human such as pigs. MicroRNA-gel is expected to represent a new and more direct avenue for precision regenerative medicine.

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