Researchers from China and the US have discovered that applying a microneedle patch to cardiac muscle that has been damaged during a heart attack can actually promote the growth of myocytes.
When someone experiences a heart attack, usually blood is not flowing to certain parts of the cardiac muscle, which leads to cell death, and ultimately, a damaged heart. This damage can be permanent, leaving patients with a heart that is not functioning properly. In the past, scientists have experimented by applying therapeutic cells to a damaged area in the heart in order to mitigate the damage and help heal the heart. This research has not progressed as hoped.
With the microneedle patch, researchers apply the patch to a damaged area, which introduces the area to therapeutic cells and allows the growth of heart muscle cells (myocytes). Microneedles in the patch open up microchannels and direct therapeutic cells directly to the heart cells, promoting communication between the damaged areas and therapeutic cells, which pumped out regenerative factors for heart repair. The patch is an extremely thin film called MN-CSC. During testing, the team used .5 by .5 cm sized-patches.
This technique of integrating a patch on the heart consists of cutting open the chest in order to see the damaged area. Then, the microneedle patch is applied to the damaged area, and the chestis sewn back together. The patch then works to help heal the damaged area. So far, researchers have tested the patch on rats and pigs. They reported that the patch reduced cell death and promoted the growth of myocytes, which helped grow new heart muscle tissue.
As of now, researchers have not encountered any unexpected side effects. Currently, the patch is biocompatible, but they hope to re-design the patch to be dissolvable and eventually eliminate the need to perform open-chest surgery.