The way things are going, open heart surgery could one day be a thing of the past with scientists revealing they have developed an injectable gel to treat heart failure.
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania in the United States have been developing ‘hydrogels’ that can be administered to patients after they have a heart attack to prevent further heart failure.
At the moment the biodegradable gels are being used as a vehicle for inserting rejuvenating cells into heart muscle to strengthen weakened areas and prevent heart failure.
It is estimated that more than 350,000 Australians have had a heart attack at some time in their lives, with around 54,000 suffering a heart attack each year according to the Heart Foundation.
“Heart failure is a huge problem, and few therapies are available for these patients,” Jason Burdick, leader of the study, says.
However, the gel solution – which is made up of a naturally occurring sugar molecule found in your body – is able to give mechanical support to stabilise the damaged area and limit the formation of scar tissue.
Burdick and his team have found that it also stopped the natural thinning of the walls and the enlargement of the heart, meaning that the preservation of the organ’s natural size means the gel can also reduce blood leaking through the valves.
With current treatment for heart failure involving lifestyle changes, medication, implants and even heart transplants, Burdick says the options often don’t work well (and in the case of a transplant are difficult to come by).
He says the gels have been found to support a long-term protection against future heart failure, and an additional benefit was that the procedure does not involve open heart surgery.