Nanofibers may help speed healing after heart attacks, preventing heart failure and improving quality of life, a study on rats and pigs suggests.
Scientists injected lattices made of the minuscule fibers alongside varying doses of a growth molecule called VEGF into animals’ heart tissue immediately after induced heart attacks. The fibers protected the growth treatment, helping the tissues to regenerate arteries and improving heart function almost a month later without harmful side effects, according to the study published today in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
“The results were quite promising,” said Karen Christman, a bioengineer at the University of California, San Diego and author of an article that accompanied the study. With development, the treatment could be used to enable people who would otherwise be bedridden to recover. “You could significantly improve quality of life,” she said.
About 785,000 Americans will suffer a heart attack for the first time and 470,000 will have a recurrent attack this year, Christman wrote.
The researchers found a way to administer VEGF safely using technology, said Benoit Bruneau, who is associate director at the San Francisco-based Gladstone Institute for Cardiovascular Disease and wasn’t involved in the research.
“It’s using applications that have been thought of before and putting them all together,” Bruneau said. The next step, he said, is to find out whether the positive results would last.
Further research must also determine how long after a heart attack the treatment should be administered, wrote the study authors from Academia Sinica and National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan and the University of California, San Francisco.
It will be at least a few years before the process could be tried in humans, Christman said, though it’s encouraging that pig hearts responded well to the treatment. Pig hearts are more similar to size to the human organ than those of rodents and are a better predictor of clinical success, she said.
“The field has become quite hot these days, but there haven’t been many studies with large animals,” she said. “It was an exciting study.”