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Gold Nanoparticles Boost Heart Tissue Patch Performance

Gold Bars (Brian Giesen/Flickr)

(Brian Giesen/Flickr)

1 October 2014. Medical and materials scientists at Tel Aviv University in Israel designed a heart tissue repair patch that adds in gold nanoparticles to improve electrical signaling and muscle performance. The team from the lab of life sciences professor Tal Dvir published its findings last month in the journal Nano Letters (paid subscription required).

The researchers aim to build on previous work engineering tissue patches to repair damage from heart attacks. Heart muscle does not easily repair itself, requiring a collagen structure from outside the heart on which new tissue can develop. Heart cells from the patient can then grow on that structure into new muscle that responds to electrical signals and contracts like the original.

Experiments with synthetic matrices or scaffolds up to now use decellularized collagen from pigs that approximates human tissue, but residual sugar and other cells on the collagen matrix can trigger an immune response and rejection by the recipient. Instead of a scaffold made of animal collagen, the Tel Aviv team harvested fatty tissue from an individual’s abdomen for the scaffold, which removes the chance for an immune response and rejection.

A drawback of harvested abdomen tissue for the scaffold, however, is its limited ability to establish a network for electrical signals like that found in original heart tissue. “Biomaterial harvested for a matrix,” says Dvir in a university statement, “tends to be insulating and thus disruptive to network signals.”

To improve electrical conductivity of the engineered tissue, the researchers deposited gold nanoparticles on the surface of the harvested matrix. Engineered heart tissue with the gold nanoparticles, say the authors, develops connexin 43 electrical coupling proteins that form signaling channels and allow for coordinated contraction of heart muscles. Tests show adding the the gold nanoparticles enables the engineered heart tissue to transmit electrical signals faster and more efficiently than the same tissue without the added gold.

The Tel Aviv team conducted preliminary tests with the engineered heart tissue on lab animals with positive results. They next plan to extend the tests to larger animals and eventually to human clinical trials.

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