Mesh wrapper bolsters a failing heart

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A photograph of the epicardial mesh implanted in a control rat heart.
Credit: J. Park et al., Science Translational Medicine (2016)

A mesh that wraps around the heart can strengthen a failing heart, a new study shows in rats.

Jinkyung Park from the Institute for Basic Science in Seoul, South Korea, and colleagues designed a soft, elastic “epicardial mesh” that integrated with a beating heart and electrically stimulated large areas of heart muscle to prevent failure.

They reported their work in Science Translational Medicine.

Heart failure, most commonly caused by a heart attack, weakens heart muscle and impairs its pumping ability.

According to the American Heart Association, around half of heart failure patients die within five years of diagnosis – a mortality rate higher than that of most cancers.

Pacemakers that deliver electrical current from specific points in the heart can effectively delay heart failure, but not every patient can have them implanted.

So devices that encircle the outer shell of the heart to synchronise its beating, a few of which are currently in clinical trials, offer a promising alternative.

Park and colleagues designed an epicardial mesh that mimics heart tissue to provide structural support and deliver electrical impulses to both lower heart chambers.

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Manual testing of the elasticity of the epicardial mesh.
Credit: J. Park et al., Science Translational Medicine (2016)

Made from silver nanowire embedded in rubber, the soft and stretchable device was customised to fit the diseased heart.

The mesh successfully integrated into beating hearts of rats that suffered a heart attack. It also boosted synchronous pumping.

With further development, the personalised mesh may help treat heart failure and potentially other cardiac diseases, including sinus node dysfunction and cardiac conduction disease.

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