More recently, the researchers identified spiral-shaped collagen fibers in the extracellular matrix of rat hearts. Seeing the potential for an advance, they set out to recreate them for the first time. After fabricating the spring-like fibers using advanced techniques, they subjected them to a variety of tests.
As the researchers predicted, the spring-like fibers showed better mechanical properties than straight fibers, with especially improved elasticity. And compared to tissue engineered with straight fibers, the tissue engineered with spring-like fibers contracted with greater force and less mechanical resistance.
"These properties are very important, because we want to transplant the tissue into the human heart, which expands and contracts constantly," says Fleischer.
Heart disease is responsible for a third of all deaths in the United States, according to a 2013 American Heart Association report. The researchers in Dr. Dvir's lab hope that tissue engineered with spring-like fibers will help fight this epidemic, improving and prolonging the lives of millions of people.
But additional research is needed first. The researchers say the processes for fabricating the fibers and assembling them into a scaffold need to be refined. Most importantly, they say, the ability of the tissue to improve heart function after a heart attack needs to be tested in humans something they plan to do in pre-clinical and then clinical trials.
|Contact: George Hunka|
American Friends of Tel Aviv University