USA —Researchers at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) have developed a new biomaterial that is capable of healing tissues from the inside out.

The material can be injected intravenously and could be used to treat heart attacks, traumatic brain injury, and other serious health problems.

The primary emphasis is on heart attacks. Scar tissue forms after a heart attack, impairing muscle function and potentially leading to congestive heart failure.

The team of researchers, led by scientists at the University of California San Diego, presented their research results in Nature Biomedical Engineering, detailing not only how the team bio-manufactured the new product, but also the success in rodent and large animal models.

“This biomaterial allows for treating damaged tissue from the inside out,” explained Karen Christman, a professor of bioengineering at UCSD, and the lead researcher on the team that developed the material. “It’s a new approach to regenerative engineering.”

The use of biomaterials to regenerate and restore damaged tissues or organs due to disease, congenital defects, trauma, or aging is known as regenerative engineering.

Researchers at UCSD developed a biomaterial that reduces tissue inflammation and promotes cell and tissue repair, potentially benefiting patients with traumatic brain injuries, heart attacks, and pulmonary arterial hypertension.

The researchers wanted to develop a substance that could be used immediately following a heart attack, especially when time was of the essence.

This study expanded on previous research and the development of a hydrogel made from the extracellular matrix, a complex system of proteins and molecules that holds cells together in tissue.

New biomaterial’s advantage over hydrogel

One advantage of the new biomaterial is that it gets evenly distributed throughout damaged tissue, because it’s infused or injected intravenously.

By contrast, hydrogel injected via a catheter remains in specific locations and doesn’t spread out, limiting its applications.

Furthermore, hydrogel must be injected directly into the heart muscle and cannot be used right away. This is due to the possibility of causing additional heart damage.

It was with this in mind that the team created a product that could be infused intravenously into the heart while other interventions were also in place.

To test the biomaterial, the researchers induced heart attacks in rodents and pigs, discovering that when injected, the material attached itself to damaged endothelial cells, closing gaps, encouraging healing, promoting normal blood flow, and reducing tissue inflammation.

The researchers also discovered that inflammation and damage in other parts of the body could be treated with the same biomaterial, though testing for this is still in the preclinical stage.

Further trials will be performed by the startup Ventrix Bio, Inc., which is seeking authorization from the U.S. FDA to conduct a study in humans of the new biomaterial’s applications for heart conditions.

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