'Scaffold' Could One Day Repair Damaged Hearts

It's the first to match structural, mechanical properties of heart tissue, scientists say

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FRIDAY, Nov. 7, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- A biological scaffold that can help repair damaged hearts and could also be used to engineer other tissues has been developed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers and colleagues.

The accordion-like, honeycomb scaffold is designed to be seeded with living heart cells or stem cells in order to treat congenital heart defects or aid the recovery of tissue damaged by a heart attack. As the scaffold is gradually absorbed into the body, it leaves behind new tissue, the researchers said.

The scaffold is the first specifically created to match the structural and mechanical properties of heart tissue, giving it a number of advantages over previous scaffolds designed for heart tissue engineering, according to the MIT team.

The general approach used in creating the heart scaffold has applications for other types of engineered tissues.

"In the long term, we'd like to have a whole library of scaffolds for different tissues in need of repair," Lisa E. Freed, a principal research scientist in the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, said in an MIT news release.

Each scaffold could be tailor-made with tissue-specific structural and mechanical properties, she said.

"We're already on the way to a few other examples," Freed said.

The research was published in the Nov. 2 online edition of the journal Nature Materials.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about cardiac rehabilitation.

SOURCE: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, news release, Nov. 2, 2008

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