Israeli scientists have developed a “bionic heart patch” they say could one day provide an alternative to heart transplants for patients with heart failure.
The patch that allows doctors to remotely deliver tissue-regenerating drugs to repair heart damage, making transplants unnecessary, Medical News Today
Details of the device — developed by Dr. Tal Dvir and Ron Feiner of the Department of Molecular Microbiology and Biotechnology at Tel Aviv University (TAU) in Israel — were published in the journal Nature Materials.
About 5.1 million Americans have heart failure and 4,145 people are waiting for a heart transplant in the U.S. About 25 percent of these individuals will die before they receive one, highlighting the need for other treatment options for patients with end-stage heart failure.
"With this heart patch, we have integrated electronics and living tissue," said Dvir. "It's very science fiction, but it's already here, and we expect it to move cardiac research forward in a big way.
"Until now, we could only engineer organic cardiac tissue, with mixed results. Now we have produced viable bionic tissue, which ensures that the heart tissue will function properly."
The team created the bionic heart patch by engineering organic tissue to include living cardiac cells, electrodes that sense tissue function and administer electrical stimulation, and electroactive polymers that can release drugs upon request.
The idea of the patch is to allow doctors to remotely treat patients who have tissue or muscle damage as a result of heart attack or heart disease.
"Imagine that a patient is just sitting at home, not feeling well. His physician will be able to log onto his computer and this patient's file — in real-time,” Dvir explained. “He can view data sent remotely from sensors embedded in the engineered tissue and assess exactly how his patient is doing. He can intervene to properly pace the heart and activate drugs to regenerate tissue from afar."
Dvir said the patch represents a "breakthrough" in cardiac research, but notes it may be a while before the device is clinically available.
"I would not suggest binging on cheeseburgers or quitting sports just yet. The practical realization of the technology may take some time," he said. "Meanwhile, a healthy lifestyle is still the best way to keep your heart healthy."
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