Rebuilding a damaged heart

I’ve written about the Wake Forest Institute of Regenerative Medicine and the Bioprinter, both attempts to create organs in the lab. But instead of creating entire organs from scratch, doesn’t it also make sense (or sometimes make more sense) to just rebuild the damaged section?

CorMatrix has just received approval to market its bioscaffold material in the European Union. It’s been available over here since 2006, which makes it unusual. Medical devices almost always come into use in Europe before they are introduced over here.

Bioscaffold means “living framework” and that is just what the new material is. If you were to take a piece and have it analyzed, you’d learn that it is made mainly from pig intestines. But when you use it to patch an Atrial Septal Defect (ASD) for example, it changes. Oh it is still the pig innards, but instead of truly repairing the ASD, it just covers it. The material encourages cell growth, and before too long the patch will be completely covered by heart tissue.  As time passes the patch material will dissolve, leaving… nothing. No ASD, no patch, only cardiac cells. And since the cells are the patient’s own body, they’ll grow right along with the patient and never be rejected.

Personally, I’m looking forward to the day when scientists can build an entire heart in the lab! But it is a complex organ, and before they get that far they’ll do things like this – figure out what parts of the heart are working and rebuild the damaged sections. It just makes sense.

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