Ischaemic heart disease (IHD) and in particular myocardial infarct (MI) causes over 741 000 deaths every year in the European Union. EU researchers have engineered nanowired scaffolds to regenerate defective heart tissue and restore function. End stage heart failure is currently treated using ventricular assist devices and/or heart transplantation. However, donor organ availability is limited. In this scenario, cardiac tissue engineering shows great promise.
This involves seeding cardiac cells within 3D biomaterials but the efficacy of such cardiac patches are hampered by several factors. Major issues include a lack of vital features including supporting microenvironment, electrical conductivity within the construct as well as an appropriate cell source.
Scientists of the NW CARDIAC TISSUES (Nanowired scaffolds for cardiac tissue engineering) project aimed to engineer a 3D microenvironment similar to the heart muscle environment. Using gold nanostructures in their cardiac patches, they would then increase electrical signal propagation between cardiac cell bundles.
Researchers recreated the heart microenvironment and studied the effect of their scaffolds on cardiac tissue assembly. Scaffolds developed include micro and nanofibres, spring-like fibre scaffolds and autologous scaffolds with biochemical content resembling the heart tissue matrix.
The incorporation of gold nanoparticles significantly improved cardiac cell growth and the scaffolds exhibited higher contraction amplitudes than scaffolds without gold.
Project members obtained a suitable human cardiac stem/progenitor cell source that showed good performance when used with autologous biomaterial scaffolds that contained gold nanoparticles. More specifically, they displayed better function, tissue growth and contraction force than other scaffolds.
The performance of these gold nanocomposite cardiac patches in the infarcted hearts of rats was highly promising. More information on this technology is available on the research laboratory website.
The costs associated with IHD amounts to several billions of euros in the EU alone. The NW CARDIAC TISSUES deliverables promise to significantly reduce the morbidity and mortality resulting from MI. This technology could also be adapted to treat damaged cardiac conduction systems.