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Injectable gel could repair tissue damaged by heart attack

University of California, San Diego researchers have developed a new injectable hydrogel that could be an effective and safe treatment for tissue damage caused by heart attacks.

The study by Karen Christman and colleagues appears in the Feb. 21 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Christman is a professor in the Department of Bioengineering at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering and has co-founded a company, Ventrix, Inc., to bring the gel to clinical trials within the next year.

Therapies like the hydrogel would be a welcome development, Christman explained, since there are an estimated 785,000 new heart attack cases in the United States each year, with no established treatment for repairing the resulting damage to cardiac tissue.

The hydrogel is made from cardiac connective tissue that is stripped of heart muscle cells through a cleansing process, freeze-dried and milled into powder form, and then liquefied into a fluid that can be easily injected into the heart. Once it hits body temperature, the liquid turns into a semi-solid, porous gel that encourages cells to repopulate areas of damaged cardiac tissue and to preserve heart function, according to Christman. The hydrogel forms a scaffold to repair the tissue and possibly provides biochemical signals that prevent further deterioration in the surrounding tissues.

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