Heart patches and new blood test lead pioneering heart failure treatments
Written by fiweh4lf on June 2, 2019
Experts have revealed a patch which could repair damaged hearts and a blood test which will flag heart failure early on.
The patches contain up to 50 million human stem cells, which are programmed to turn into working heart muscle cells that beat.
Experts say one of more patches could be implanted onto the heart of a heart attack victim to prevent or reverse damage.
During a heart attack, the organ is starved of vital nutrients and oxygen which kill off parts of it. This weakens the heart and can lead to heart failure.
The patches will be sewn into place and would physically support the damaged muscle, helping it to pump more efficiently. Chemicals will also be released to stimulate the cells to repair and regenerate.
Lab tests show the patches start to beat spontaneously after three days and start to mimic mature heart tissue within one month.
Tests on animals showed an improvement in the function of the heart after an attack, and clinical trials will start on humans in the next two years.
Scientists hope to have a stock of pre-made patches which would be compatible with all patients so a heart attack victim could have one implanted quickly.
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Professor Metin Avkiran, associate medical director at the BHF, which is funding the research, said: “This is a prime example of world-leading research that has the potential to mend broken hearts and transform lives around the globe.
“If clinical trials can show the benefits of these heart patches in people after a heart attack, it would be a great leap forward for regenerative medicine.
“Heart failure is a debilitating and life-changing condition with no cure, making everyday tasks incredibly difficult.
“If we can patch the heart up and help it heal, we could transform the outlook for these people.”
It comes as experts also unveiled a new blood test to detect heart failure, which could be done on the NHS, and is far more accurate than the current check.
Doctors currently measure levels of the protein B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) with a standard blood test, and increased levels indicate a risk of heart failure. Obesity, advancing age and some medications also push up these levels, so it’s not completely reliable.
Experts at Queen’s University Belfast have bypassed this problem by measuring other key proteins in the blood, and found 25 proteins in the blood of heart failure patients.
Further tests on 400 blood samples, taken from patients with heart failure and without, showed the 25 proteins plus BNP levels gave a much more accurate diagnosis of heart failure.
Tests also picked up signs of heart failure before the patient presents with serious clinical symptoms, which would prevent long-term damage.
Dr Claire Tonry, research fellow at Queen’s, said: “There’s an urgent need to develop tests that can diagnose heart failure at an earlier stage and with greater accuracy in order to improve outcomes for patients with the disease.
“The results from the test are promising and we’re now carrying out further research to see if this will be a clinically useful tool for diagnosis of heart failure.”
About 920,000 people are affected by heart failure each year in the UK.