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Tissue patches are said to improve contractility after a heart attack
Around 200,000 people in Germany suffer a heart attack every year. Thanks to the latest technology, around three quarters of all those affected now survive such an attack. However, in most cases, damaged areas remain that permanently weaken the heart. A newly developed heart patch is now said to improve healing after a heart attack.
A German research team is currently developing a type of plaster for the heart that should improve the contraction power of the heart after a heart attack. It is a tissue made of cardiac muscle cells that is sutured to the surface of the heart in a surgical procedure, grows and forms new heart tissue. This is to prevent heart failure after an infarction. The new heart patch is to be presented on May 7, 2019 in a press conference for the 125th annual conference of the German Society for Internal Medicine (DGIM) in Wiesbaden.
Why does the heart need a patch after an infarction?
Cardiovascular diseases have topped the list of causes of death for years. More than a third of all people in Germany die of heart disease. Heart attack is one of the most dangerous cardiovascular diseases. Thanks to good emergency care, around three quarters of those affected survive a heart attack, but the heart muscle often remains permanently damaged. Around a quarter of those affected develop chronic heart failure after a heart attack. The new tissue patch for the heart can counteract this development.
A patch for heart failure
"Many patients in Germany suffer from so-called heart failure (heart failure)," explains Professor Dr. med. Claus F. Vogelmeier, Congress President of this year's DGIM conference, in a press release on the new heart patch. The sewn-on tissue strip brings three advantages with it: on the one hand, no cells would be washed away, which significantly increases efficiency, on the other, there would be no cardiac arrhythmias and, moreover, the contraction force of the new tissue can be tested before implantation.
High-tech plasters for the heart
As the doctors say, the patch has been in development for 25 years. First, heart muscle cells must be grown from stem cells in the laboratory. These are pre-grown on a framework of collagen or fibrin to form a heart muscle patch. In technical terms, these patches are referred to as "engineered heart tissue" (EHT). In an operation these are then sewn onto the heart surface, grow and form new heart tissue from then on. Another option is to inject the heart cells directly into the muscle. This is less complex than an operation, but also less efficient in comparison. There is also a risk of cardiac arrhythmia after an injection.
Already successfully tested on animals
As the DGIM experts report, both the injection of cardiac muscle cells and the application of heart patches have already been successfully tested in various animal species. "In some cases, impressive amounts of new heart muscle tissue could be detected," explains Professor Dr. Thomas Eschenhagen, the director of the Institute for Experimental Medicine at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf.
No side effects known
Apart from the above-mentioned cardiac arrhythmias, which only occurred during injections, no side effects are known to date. However, data from the long-term course are still missing. Nevertheless, the researchers are confident that the patch will be available in the foreseeable future. As early as next year, the first cardiac patches will be tested in human patients with severe heart failure who would otherwise be dependent on a donor heart. (vb)