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Injectable electrically conductive patch could help restore cardiac function after heart failure, study suggests

TORONTO — A minimally invasive cardiac patch made out of carbon nanotubes could be a promising solution for patients with heart failure, a new Canadian-led study suggests.

A group of scientists has developed an electrically conductive patch that can be rolled into a syringe or commercial catheter and injected into the damaged heart area. There, the patch unravels back to its original shape and fuses to the heart muscle, where electrical currents help with muscle contraction to pump blood.

The patch has yet to be tested on humans, but it was able to re-establish most of the function in rats that had damaged hearts after four weeks, according to a peer-reviewed study published on Thursday in Nature Biomedical Engineering. Researchers also noted functional recovery in minipigs.

“To date, delivery of cardiac patches almost always requires an open-chest surgery,” said co-author Kibret Mequanint, a professor at Western University in London, Ont., in a statement. Mequanint specializes in biomaterials, tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.

The patch is unique in that it can be applied through a minimally invasive procedure and is conductive, a critical element to restoring cardiac function. Heart tissue that would normally help with muscle contraction is often too damaged to continue pumping blood. Other cardiac patches are not conductive, and as such block the electrical signals running through the heart. It is also unique in that it retains its original shape.

Led by the University of Manitoba and Western University, scientists developed this patch using carbon nanotubes, which are highly conductive, methacrylated elastin, which are extremely flexible, gelatin, and cardiac cells.

Heart disease is the second leading cause of death in Canada, with about 200 transplants performed each year, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information. About 2.4 million Canadians over the age of 20 live with heart disease, including more than 665,000 over the age of 40 who live with heart failure, according to Health Canada.

“There just aren’t enough donors, so we need other solutions, and we think we have one with our new conductive and injectable cardiac patch,” said Mequanint.

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