When a person of any age suffers even the mildest of cardiac arrest “heart attack”, their heart tissues are known to sustain a level of damage which has, until now, been irreversible. The reason why is because, in general, heart muscle tissue cells, because of their biological buildup, are unable to repair themselves.
Solutions containing gold nanoparticles of different types and sizes
The particles get larger from left to right / Wikipedia
/ By Gali Raz /
The global search, which has been continuing for many years, to find effective methods to restore a damaged heart back to its original levels of function, has seen tremendous improvements in recent years. Now it has been revealed that one of the most exciting breakthroughs have been achieved by the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine Laboratory, at Tel Aviv University’s Department of Molecular Microbiology and Biotechnology and the Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology.
There the research team headed by Dr. Tal Dvir along with PhD student Michal Shevach, are setting what they describe as a “gold standard” in the regeneration of cardiac tissue, through the use of gold, one of the world’s most coveted and valuable of materials and all the latest advances in nanotechnology.
Dr Dvir and his team’s research have been based around the development of what are known as “cardiac patches.” These patches are developed to form engineered tissue capable of mimicking the heart’s vital electrical system, which has a role of controlling both heartbeat and rhythm. Dr Dvir’s development permits the integration of cardiac cells with nanofibers produced from obviously minute gold particles which come together to form functional engineered tissues.
The goal of the Tel Aviv team’s experiment is to produce the maximum effect from simulated electrical signaling produced between healthy heart cells, to stimulate the cells that were previously regarded as being damaged beyond repair.
Gold-nanoparticles -Credit Andras Vladar, NIST
Gold increase connectivity of biomaterials
According to Dr Dvir, it has become common knowledge in the medical profession that gold has the ability to increase the connectivity of biomaterials. Initial experimentation has shown that thanks to the addition of the gold particles, cardiac tissues become capable of contracting at a much faster level as well as the contractions being considerably stronger , making this form of treatment are more viable alternative for short-term treatment for heart patients who are the eventual candidates for a heart transplant.
According to Dr Dvir, human heart cells contain protein, usually close to the surface, which have the role of transferring electrical signals. Until recently the process of tissue engineering was becoming printer productive due to the premature loss of these proteins. The medical profession was aware that these important cells did have the capability of reproducing naturally, although with a considerable timescale involved. A time scale that for many sufferers of chronic heart disease was a luxury that could not afford. However with the introduction of gold based nanofibers to take on the role of electrical connectors, the heart cells are found to be capable of producing their own connectors in a much more rapid timeframe.
During the course of their research Dr. Dvir and his team used a variety of chemical and physical processes in order to integrate gold nanoparticles which were seen to then interact with each other to strengthen the heart function.
In order to observe the effect of the nanoparticles on the fibers and check levels of conductivity, Dr. Dvir and his research team utilized a scanning electron microscope capable of measuring various levels of electrical activity. Research showed that heart cells placed on the gold-embedded “scaffolding” generated significantly stronger contractions when compared to those on“scaffolding” that had not had gold nanoparticles inserted. Even more important according to Dr Dvir, the heart cells containing gold nanoparticles were observed to contract in harmony, providing an effective demonstration of the extent of the electrical signaling between them.
With statistics showing that around 50 percent of heart attack victims suffering a fatal second attack within a period of up to five years from their initial attack, new treatment options such as those developed by Dr. Dvir and his research team have to be regarded as a major breakthrough, through their ability to generate functioning, transplantable tissue that is not only liable to save a chronic heart’s disease sufferer’s life, but also to improve its quality.
Having successfully demonstrated the electrical signaling capability of these gold infused cardiac patches, Dr. Dvir and his reserves team look forward to moving on to the next step will which will be to evaluate the potential of improving heart functionality through the insertion of gold nanoparticles. These tests will initially be involved in pre-clinical tests held in the labs at the University in the lab and, hopefully, eventually, actual clinical trials with patients.
According to Dr Dvir, the ideal clinical evaluation method would be to use a patient’s own cells to build the new tissue, avoiding the possible risk of rejection.