Scientists from Tel Aviv University have recently published in the journal Nature Materialswhat they believe will be the alternative to heart transplant surgery for end-stage heart failure patients.
The ‘bionic heart patch’ they have developed consists of both organic and engineered elements, containing cardiac cells, electrodes that sense tissue function and administer electrical stimulation, and responsive electroactive polymers that can release drugs on demand. Thus, the tissue has the potential to not only effectively repair permanently damaged heart tissue (e.g. resulting from a heart attack), but also help ensure the heart tissue continues to function correctly, with doctors able to monitor and treat patients remotely.
Longer-term, the researchers even believe they will be able to remove the healthcare professional role altogether, by developing the patch’s functions so it can autonomously treat patients by detecting changes such as inflammation.
Despite the development representing a significant breakthrough in heart failure research, the researchers quite rightly point out that “the practical realisation of the technology may take some time”, meaning keeping healthy is still critically important in order to maintain a happy heart!