If you survive a heart attack, your risk goes up for further heart problems. But there’s a new product in the testing stages that could help reverse the damage caused by this medical event. Bandages seem to work for helping broken bones and open wounds heal, but can they work for the heart? Strangely, a recent study has shown that it’s possible.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), in 2004, 79,400,000 Americans had some type of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Out of those, 7,900,000 had an acute heart attack. It is, in fact, the number-one most dangerous disease in the country.
What exactly is a heart attack? Well, your heart muscles need oxygen to function. It’s blood that carries oxygen to and from the heart. If something cuts off the blood flow to any area of the heart, the cells in the muscle there will start to die. This damages the muscle and could lead to severe problems. One of the most common causes of heart attack is CVD. That’s when plaque builds up in the arteries that carry blood to and from the heart. This can lead to the development of a blood clot, which is what actually blocks the blood flow.
If a person survives a heart attack, this does not mean that they are out of the woods. The damage to the heart muscle will turn into scar tissue. This can cause problems further down the line, including life-threatening events like heart failure and irregular heartbeat. Now, there’s a patch that’s in early testing that could strengthen the damaged area of the heart and help it heal.
The heart patch is made of biodegradable material. This means that it dissolves when its job is done. It’s placed surgically over the damaged portion of heart muscle, where the scar tissue is. Because it holds the weakened area in place, the patch is believed to give the heart cells the support they need to regenerate and heal the organ.
This ability to help the heart heal was recently tested in a study on rats. The researchers induced heart attacks in rats. They then split the rodents into two groups. One group had the patch surgically placed on the damaged portion of heart. The other group had a sham surgery, but did not receive the patch. The researchers found that the hearts of the rats with the patch became thicker and had more muscle development and healthier heart cells than was seen in the rats without the patch.
The researchers have moved on to a study involving pigs. If that’s successful, they’ll move on to humans. But it looks quite promising — this patch could strengthen the damaged heart, helping to prevent another heart attack or other problems.