Building a 'heart patch'

Lab testWe've awarded two new grants from our Mending Broken Hearts Appeal fund, at a combined cost of more than £500,000.

Thanks to your donations, each funded project holds promise of helping find a way to repair hearts damaged by a heart attack.

The two sets of scientists – one at the University of Cambridge, and the other at University College London – are both trying to develop a ‘heart patch’ to fix to a damaged heart.

A ‘patch’ with the right layout of heart muscle cells, held together by proteins and supporting cells, could form part of a future treatment for some people with heart failure. But making a patch is not easy, because heart muscle has a much more complex structure than many other types of tissue. Different types of cells and supporting structures have to be positioned and connected in precisely the right way to form healthy working tissue.

Spraying cells and building scaffolds

Dr Anastasis Stephanou and his colleagues at University College London are using a high-tech gadget to ‘spray’ cells together using microscopic hoses. This pioneering new technique could be an ideal way to build high quality heart tissue in the future.

Extreme closeup of Professor Richard Farndale's 'scaffold' for heart tissueMeanwhile, Cambridge’s Professor Richard Farndale is turning his attention to the tricky question of building a ‘scaffold’ for new heart tissue. First, he aims to build a structure that’s the right shape – at the microscopic level – to ensure stem cells align correctly. Then by coating the scaffold skeleton with other tiny molecules, he aims to snare the cells in place and encourage them to transform into beating heart muscle.

Together, both projects will take us a step further towards finding a way to mend broken hearts.

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Patching the heart

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