Researchers have developed a small device designed to halt the effects of a heart attack by delivering a stem cell therapy directly to damaged cardiac tissue.
In a study published in Nature Biomedical Engineering, researchers from Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the National University of Ireland Galway and Trinity College Dublin reported that the device improved heart function in rats that received multiple doses of the stem cell therapy over the course of four weeks.
The device, dubbed ‘Therepi’, features a refillable reservoir that is made out of a gelatin-based polymer. The reservoir is shaped like a sphere that’s been sliced in half – the flat half includes a semi-permeable membrane that allows drugs to be delivered directly to damaged tissue.
When used to deliver a stem cell therapy, the device’s reservoir keeps the stem cells in place while the cells churn out healing compounds that are passed through the device’s membrane to the heart tissue.
The device is also refillable, according to the researchers. A refill line connects directly to the reservoir via a port through the user’s skin.
Testing the product on rats, researchers gave multiple doses of stem cells and assessed the therapy’s efficacy using echocardiography and a pressure-volume catheter. They observed that the rats that received multiple doses of stem cells experienced greater improvement in heart function compared to the rats that received a single dose or no dose.
“After a heart attack we could use this device to deliver therapy to prevent a patient from getting heart failure,” co-first author Ellen Roche said in prepared remarks. “If the patient already has some degree of heart failure, we can use the device to attenuate the progression.”