Harvard Heart Letter

From the cutting edge: Patch heals heart

A bioengineered collagen patch can heal heart attack damage, a recent mouse study suggests.

When a heart attack cuts off the blood supply to the heart muscle, heart cells die. Nothing can bring them back. Efforts to replace these dead cells with living cells from outside the body, such as stem-cell approaches, have not been particularly successful.

Pilar Ruiz-Lozano, associate professor of pediatrics at Stanford University, led a team that has developed a bioengineered patch made from collagen, the fibrous material that makes up tendons and other connective tissues. Instead of trying to replace working heart muscle cells, the patch simply provides a protective outer covering to the area of dead heart tissue. Because of the patch's mechanical properties and structure, it allows the heart to do something it can't do by itself: regenerate heart muscle killed by a heart attack. Mice with experimentally induced heart attacks had improved heart function after receiving the patch.

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