Heart attack is a leading cause of death, and often results in damage by overstretching the heart muscle. Once overstretched, the weakened heart muscle is less efficient at pumping blood, and it’s hard for the muscle to recover once the damage is formed because the heart is always beating. It can’t ever stop to heal. Researchers from Brown University and Fudan University have developed an adhesive patch that can be attached directly onto the heart to prevent stretching of the muscle after a heart attack, offering a potential treatment for severe heart attacks and subsequent heart failure.

The researchers first used a computer simulation to calculate the optimized mechanical properties of the patch, which should be stiff enough to hold the muscle in place yet soft enough to allow normal contraction–relaxation cycles of the heart. Based on the simulation result, they made a patch out of a viscoelastic hydrogel material that has both solid-like properties to provide stiffness and fluid-like properties to allow deformation during heart cycles. This adhesive patch was tested on rats that had suffered heart attacks, and it demonstrated the ability to reverse muscle damage and stretching, restoring normal heart functions.

Although the patch has only been tested in laboratory rats, the reported results are very promising and can potentially contribute to treating human heart attacks in the future. In addition, the mechanical design of the patch, which balances solid- and fluid-like properties, can be useful for guiding other material designs in dynamic biological or engineering systems, such as stretchable on-skin electronics for health monitoring.

Managing Correspondent: Anqi Zhang

Press Articles: Heart patch could limit muscle damage in heart attack aftermath. Science Daily.

Adhesive patch that helps treat heart disease. Materials Today.

Original journal article: A viscoelastic adhesive epicardial patch for treating myocardial infarction. Nature Biomedical Engineering.

Image Credit: Pictures88

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