U of M researchers develop 3-D printed patch could help heart attack patients

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(Photo credit: University of Minnesota)

A team of biomedical engineering researchers, led by the University of Minnesota, has created a new 3D-bioprinted patch that can help heal scarred heart tissue after a heart attack.

According to a release, the discovery is a major step forward in treating patients with tissue damage after a heart attack.

In the study, researchers from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, University of Wisconsin-Madison and University of Alabama-Birmingham used laser-based 3D-bioprinting techniques to “incorporate stem cells derived from adult human heart cells on a matrix that began to grow and beat synchronously in a dish in the lab.”

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the U.S., killing more than 360,000 people a year, according to the American Heart Association.

During a heart attack, a person loses blood flow to the heart muscle, which causes cells to die. The body can’t replace those heart muscle cells, so it forms scar tissue in that area of the heart, which puts the person at risk for compromised heart function and future heart failure.

When the cell patch was placed on a mouse following a simulated heart attack, the researchers saw significant increases in functional capacity after just four weeks. Since the patch was made from cells and structural proteins native to the heart, it became part of the heart and absorbed into the body, requiring no further surgeries.