Mending The Heart With Living Nanogels

By encapsulating stem cells in a nanogel, scientists have managed to repair heart damage in mice and pigs.

AsianScientist (Sep. 26, 2017) – Scientists have developed a hydrogel that can help heal the muscular walls of the heart. Their work is published in the journal ACS Nano.

Heart disease and heart-related illnesses are leading causes of death around the world, but treatment options are limited. Myocardial infarction, also known as a heart attack, causes damage to the muscular walls of the heart.

Scientists have tried different methods to repair this damage. For example, one method involves directly implanting stem cells in the heart wall, but the cells often do not take hold. Sometimes, the stem cells even trigger an immune reaction which exacerbates the patient’s condition.

Another treatment option being explored is injectable hydrogels, substances that are composed of water and a polymer. Naturally occurring polymers such as keratin and collagen have been used, but they are expensive and their composition can vary between batches.

In this study, an international team of researchers from China, Australia and the US encapsulated stem cells in nanogels made from heat-sensitive poly(N-isopropylacrylamine-co-acrylic acid). This material is initially liquid but turns into a soft gel when at body temperature. The nanogel did not adversely affect stem cell growth or function, and the encased stem cells did not trigger an immune response.

When the stem cell-containing nanogels were injected into mouse and pig hearts, the researchers observed increased stem cell retention and regeneration compared to when the stem cells were directly injected without the nanogel. In addition, the muscular walls of mouse and pig hearts were strengthened, suggesting that the therapy worked to promote recovery after myocardial infarction.

The article can be found at: Tang et al. (2017) Heart Repair Using Nanogel-Encapsulated Human Cardiac Stem Cells in Mice and Pigs with Myocardial Infarction.


Source: American Chemical Society; Photo: Shutterstock
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