Biomedical Engineering Blog

Biomedical Engineering

The Biomedical Engineering blog is the place for conversation and discussion about topics related to engineering principles of the medical field. Here, you'll find everything from discussions about emerging medical technologies to advances in medical research. The blog's owner, Chelsey H, is a graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) with a degree in Biomedical Engineering.

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Fixing a Broken Heart - Part 2

Posted September 05, 2007 6:00 AM by shanlax

Teddy bears. Tiny hands. The beating of a broken heart. Cardiologists can save an adult's life, but what about a child's? Congenital heart defects range from mild to severe and affect 8 of every 1,000 newborns. Heart problems include premature ventricular contraction (PVC), aortic stenosis, atrial septal defect (ASD), and contraction of the aorta. These and other medical conditions occur during the first stage of pregnancy and can prevent the proper functioning of a child's heart.

Fortunately, medical researchers at Children's Hospital Boston and Massachusetts General Hospital are working hard to save kids' hearts. Their efforts involve extracting patches of cardiomyocytes that are capable of re-entering the cell cycle, and then incubating the cardiomyocytes in periostin before placing the patch of cells over the infarct site. Cardiomyocytes are rod-shaped cardiac muscle cells that augment contractile function. Periostin is a material that surrounds cells and is made by the skin found around bones. Infarct - that gruesome word - refers to heart tissue that is in the process of dying or is already dead.

To observe the reactions that occur within the heart, these researchers have applied patches of cardiomyocytes and a control unit of gel-foam to rats with induced heart attacks. So far, the results are promising. After three months with the patch, periostin was still being released. Results included a strengthening of the heart's pumping ability, improved remodeling of the ventricles, and decreased stress on the left-ventricular wall. A reduction of scarring, a decrease in infarct tissue, and the creation of a larger network of blood vessels were also apparent.

So how could doctors use this procedure to fix a child's broken heart? One of the researchers, Bernard Kuhn, proposes using the patch to increase the number of cardiomyocytes. This would help keep a kid's heart pumping and counter the effects of congenital heart disease. Mark Keating, a senior investigator for the study, reports that a good way to help children with congenital heart diseases would be to infuse the best parts of the periostin molecules right where the heart needs more tissue. Methods of application would include a catheter or heart surgery.

The researchers' approach is an optimistic healing process in that it doesn't seem to have any side effects or involve any sort of drug. Hopefully, with time, their visions of what this could do will come true!

Resources:

http://kidshealth.org/parent/medical/heart/congenital_heart_defects.html

http://www.childrenshospital.org/

http://www.massgeneral.org/


For information on other heart problem research visit Fixing a Broken Heart Part 1

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