Researchers have developed a new polymer patch that can be stuck onto the heart without the need for stitches to improve the conduction of electrical impulses across heart tissue damaged during a heart attack.
The patch is made from three components: a film of chitosan, a polysaccharide found in crab shells that is often used as a food additive; polyaniline, a conducting polymer that is grown on top; and phytic acid, a substance found in plants which is added to the polyaniline to switch it to its conducting state.
The patch is made to adhere to the heart tissue by shining a green laser on it.
The researchers tested the patch by implanting it into rats. They found it improved the conduction of electrical impulses across the heart scar tissue.
“This leads to potentially fatal disturbances of the heart rhythm. Our electrically conducting polymer patch is designed to address this serious problem,” said Sian Harding, Professor at Imperial College London.
The new stitch-less patch is stable and retains conductivity in physiological conditions for more than two weeks, compared with the usual one day of other designs.
“No stitches are required to attach it, so it is minimally invasive and less damaging to the heart, and it moves more closely with the heart’s motion,” said lead Damia Mawad at University of New South Wales in Sydney.
“We envisage heart attack patients eventually having patches attached as a bridge between the healthy and the scar tissue, to help prevent cardiac arrhythmia,” Mawad said.
“The patch can help us better understand how conductive materials interact with heart tissue and influence the electrical conduction in the heart, as well as better understand the physiological changes associated with heart attacks,” explained Molly Stevens, Professor at Imperial College London.
The research was published in the journal Science Advances.