Washington: Researchers claim to have developed a new injectable hydrogel which they say could be used to repair tissue damaged by heart attacks.
A team at the University of California, led by Karen Christman, hopes to bring the gel to clinical trials within the next year, the latest edition of `Journal of the American College of Cardiology` reported.
Therapies like the hydrogel would be a welcome development, Christman explained, since there are an estimated 785,000 new heart attack cases in the US each year, with no established treatment for repairing the resulting damage to cardiac tissue.
The hydrogel is made from cardiac connective tissue that is stripped of heart muscle cells through a cleansing process, freeze-dried and milled into powder form, and then liquefied into a fluid that can be easily injected into the heart.
Once it hits body temperature, the liquid turns into a semi-solid, porous gel that encourages cells to repopulate areas of damaged cardiac tissue and to preserve heart function, according to Christman.
The hydrogel forms a scaffold to repair the tissue and possibly provides biochemical signals that prevent further deterioration in the surrounding tissues.
"It helps to promote a positive remodelling-type response, not a pro-inflammatory one in the damaged heart," Christman said in a release by the university.
What`s more, the researchers` experiments show that the gel also can be injected through a catheter, a method that is minimally invasive and does not require surgery or general anaesthesia.
The gel has been found to improve heart function in pigs with cardiac damage, which brings this potential therapy one step closer to humans, Christman said.