A research team led by Associate Professor Michael Monaghan at Trinity University Dublin, Ireland, has developed a conductive polymer patch that can help repair damaged hearts, designed to attach to the outside of the heart and bridge areas of scar tissue. A related research paper was recently published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials.
It is understood that after a heart attack, some of the beating heart muscle tissue is eventually replaced by non-beating scar tissue, which permanently impairs the function of the heart. Once implanted in the heart, the patch would be able to pick up electrical signals from surrounding heart cells, propagate their signals across the gap, and expand and contract in time with them. So far, the researchers have tested the patch on isolated biological tissue and plan to conduct animal experiments.
The patch is made of a medically-approved stretchable polymer and coated with a mesh-like layer of a separate conducting polymer – polypyrrole. This is done through “melted direct write” technology developed by Spraybase, a spin-off company of Trinity University Dublin.
We have seen other experimental “cardiac patches” previously designed to perform a similar function. While many of the previous experiments have integrated actual living heart cells, the new patch is designed to work alone, and it can also work with added cells for enhanced function.