TEHRAN, Young Journalists Club (YJC) - The research, recently published in the journal Tissue Engineering, could be a big step forward in the study of heart disease treatment.
The researcher in question, Mohammad Izadifar, is a biomedical engineering PhD student at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada, and has specialized in heart disease and heart disease treatments. His recent 3D bioprinting breakthrough has so far been tested on animals with positive results.
“Mohammad’s research is a piece of pioneering work,” commented Izadifar’s supervisor Daniel Chen, who is also a professor of mechanical engineering. “Preliminary results using an animal model are promising. This novel heart patch has potential to benefit human patients around the world.”
Impressively, Izadifar says his innovative 3D printed heart patch could be ready for use in humans (at least on a trial basis) within the next ten years. The goal of his research is to revolutionize treatment processes for heart disease.
When a person has a heart attack, blood flow is partially or fully blocked to a certain part of the vital organ. If the person survives the attack, the damaged part of the heart still cannot be fixed. In other words, healthy tissue cannot regenerate naturally to fully recover the heart.
“The problem is that the heart cannot repair itself once damaged from a heart attack,” explained Izadifar. “If the heart tissue dies, it is not coming back.”
The researcher’s heart patch, however, could provide a solution to this problem. Izadifar developed a patch which could be assembled using biocompatible materials and a 3D bioprinter. The patch, which consists of a “porous jelly-like structure” and is made from an algae-based hydrogel, is designed to dissolve into the patient’s heart after it is implanted.
Notably, the 3D printed patch is designed to house stem cells and biocompatible nanoparticles. These nanoparticles can be programmed to send signals to the heart’s blood vessels, effectively promoting and encouraging the regrowth of the damaged heart tissue.
More specifically, the nanoparticles in the 3D bioprinted scaffold prompt the stem cells (also in the patch) to transform into heart cells, which gradually helps to regenerate the patient’s own damaged heart, even helping to create new blood vessels.
As Izadifar claims: “With the help of this patch, a patient would be able to regenerate heart tissue from their own cells. It would be a permanent treatment for heart attack.”
So far, Izadifar has been able to implant his heart patch technology into test rats. To enable monitoring of the rats (the implant is reportedly invisible to medical imaging systems), the researcher developed a non-invasive imaging process in collaboration with the Canadian Light Source (CLS) synchroton.
"With different 3D printing patterns, we can control the toughness, conductivity, and cell alignment of the patch," he explained. "With the medical imaging technique that I developed at the CLS, we would be able to monitor the 3D printed heart patch during the healing process."
The implantation process with the rats, helped along by his co-supervisor and neurosurgery specialist Michael Kelly, has already shown promising results: the rats with a 3D printed heart patch had a 70 per cent survival rate (compared to the 50 per cent survival rate noted for similar surgical procedures).
Currently, the researcher is focusing his work on studying the longer-term effects of the 3D printed heart patch on the rats. His research is being supported by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research.