heartLarge, human cardiac-muscle patches created in the lab have been tested, for the first time, on large animals in a heart attack model. This clinically relevant approach showed that the patches significantly improved recovery from heart attack injury.

The results are a step closer to the goal of treating human heart attacks by suturing cardiac-muscle patches over an area of dead heart muscle in order to reduce the pathology that often leads to heart failure.

The research was led by Jianyi “Jay” Zhang, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering, a joint department of the UAB School of Medicine and the School of Engineering.

Each patch is 1.57 by 0.79 inches in size and nearly as thick as a dime. Zhang and colleagues found that transplanting two of these patches onto the infarcted area of a pig heart significantly improved function of the heart’s left ventricle, the major pumping chamber. The patches also significantly reduced infarct size, which is the area of dead muscle; heart-muscle wall stress and heart-muscle enlargement; as well as significantly reducing apoptosis, or programmed cell death, in the scar boarder area around the dead heart muscle. Furthermore, the patches did not induce arrhythmia in the hearts, a serious complication observed in some past biomedical engineering approaches to treat heart attacks.

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