Biomedical engineers at US’ Duke University have developed a fully functioning artificial human heart muscle to repair dead muscle in patients.
Claimed to be strong and electrically active, the artificial muscle could be patched over the damage usually observed in people who had a heart attack.
Duke University biomedical engineering doctoral student Ilia Shadrin said: “Right now, virtually all existing therapies are aimed at reducing the symptoms from the damage that’s already been done to the heart, but no approaches have been able to replace the muscle that’s lost, because, once it’s dead, it does not grow back on its own.
“This is a way that we could replace lost muscle with tissue made outside the body.”
The patch is considered to be beneficial as the heart does not possess the capability of self-regeneration and a scar tissue generally used to replace dead muscle cannot contract or transmit electrical signals.
Researchers have grown the cells required for the heart patch from human pluripotent stem cells and created multiple patches using various lines of the stem cells.
The cells were then transferred at specific ratios into a jelly-like substance, allowing them to self-organise and grow into functioning tissue.
Following extensive research, the team successfully developed patches that were about 16cm2 and five to eight cells thick.
According to the findings from various tests, the artificial heart muscle is fully functional and has electrical, mechanical and structural properties similar to those of a healthy adult heart.
The researchers, however, believe that further work is needed to grow more thick tissue to ensure complete integration of the patch with the existing heart muscle.