Having a heart attack is, understandably, a frightening affair. Even if you live through it, you have to live with the knowledge that your heart is in a state where something like that could easily happen again. Medical science hasn’t developed a way to prevent heart attacks just yet, but this new advancement might just smooth the road to recovery.
A biological engineering team at North Carolina State University has developed a tiny patch covered in microscopic, biodegradable needles. Microneedle patches have been tinkered with by other scientists in the past as a means of delivering vaccines, but this one doesn’t go on your skin. Nope, it goes right onto the heart. The needles are coated in a special mixture of proteins and microRNAs that encourage the growth of heart muscle cells. When the patch is attached to a heart damaged by a heart attack, the damaged tissue begins to heal, and the heart’s ability to pump blood improves.
In clinical trials with rats and pigs, test subjects showed 40% of damaged tissue restored (compared to a control subject’s 10%) and a 10% improvement in blood circulation. Research still needs to be performed to determine the safety of leaving the patches for long periods of time, as well as the best kind of biodegradable material for the patches themselves. Still, this is promising; even if the first attack can’t be conclusively prevented, these patches could be a viable aid against further ones.