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Injectable Hydrogel Could Strengthen Weakened Hearts

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 07 Sep 2016
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Image: A stiff injectable hydrogel could help strengthen damaged heart walls (Photo courtesy of ACS).
Image: A stiff injectable hydrogel could help strengthen damaged heart walls (Photo courtesy of ACS).
A novel hydrogel with supportive properties could be used to fortify weak areas in the heart, according to a new study.

Developed by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania (Penn; Philadelphia, USA), the hydrogel contains a mixture of additives to improve its physical and mechanical properties. For example, adamantane and cyclodextrin groups are attached to the hyaluronic acid molecules in order to reduce its viscosity, thus making it more flowable through a catheter; thiol and methacrylate groups, on the other hand, allow the polymer constituents to cross-link after injection, stiffening the gel for longer-lasting results.

In sheep studies, the injected hydrogel limited formation of scar tissue, thinning of the myocardium, and enlargement of the heart. By preserving the organ’s normal size, the crosslinked hydrogel also reduced leakage through the mitral valve, helping to stave off heart failure. Once the researchers finalize the hydrogel formulation and delivery method, they hope to be able to bring a cohesive product to market. The study was presented at the 252nd national meeting & exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), held during August 2016 in Philadelphia (PA, USA).

“Heart failure is a huge problem, and few therapies are available for these patients,” said lead author and study presenter Professor Jason Burdick, PhD, of the department of bioengineering. “Current treatments for heart failure include lifestyle changes, medication, implants or transplants, but these have seen limited success. A fortifying hydrogel would represent another option for the roughly 735,000 people in the U.S. who have heart attacks each year.”

Heart failure represents a growing healthcare burden in all developed countries, affecting patients whose heart muscle is initially damaged by infarcts, hypertension, valvular disease, or other processes. To overcome the initial damage, the heart muscle works under increased stress without an opportunity to recover; eventually, the muscle of the left ventricle begins to stretch and muscle cells lose the ability to contract normally. Therapeutic options for many of these patients are limited and can be extremely complex and costly.

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