Gold nanowire patch promises to help heart attack victims

MIT researchers have developed cardiac patches made with gold nanowires that could help those who have suffered a heart attack.

A research team comprised of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Children’s Hospital Boston has developed cardiac patches made from gold nanowires that could help those who have suffered a heart attack.

The patch, detailed this week in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, promises to improve on existing versions, which have difficulty achieving the conductivity necessary to ensure a smooth, continuous "beat" within a piece of tissue.

The new patch enables synchrony of those tissue cells, allowing them to mimic natural heart muscle. As an implantable patch, the cells could replace heart tissue that was damaged during cardiac arrest.

The researchers' technique involves scattering gold nanowires among cardiac cells as they are grown in vitro. Traditionally, biological engineers use miniature scaffolds to organize cells into functional shapes as they grow. But the scaffolds are usually made of materials with poor electrical conductivity, blocking electric signals from traveling.

That's a problem for an organ that beats through the coordination of those signals.

Researchers Brian Timko and Tal Dvir -- with backgrounds in semiconducting nanowires and cardiac tissue engineering, respectively -- developed new scaffolds that allowed the signals through by mixing the gold nanowires with a base material, alginate. Then they placed cardiac cells onto the composite material and grew them.

The result: an improvement by about three orders of magnitude.

The next step is to conduct further research in vivo, to determine how the composite-grown tissue functions when placed into the real thing. If successful, the technique could be used in other vascular applications, muscle cells and maybe even neural cells.

Photo: Disease Biophysics Group, Harvard University

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com