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Surprising Science

Nanotechnology Rejuvenates the Heart

Dead regions of the heart can be brought back to life using nanotechnology—new research out of Brown University could help heart attack patients recover their most vital organ. 

What’s the Latest Development?

Experimenters at Brown University and the India Institute of Technology Kanpur have created a small mesh of carbon nanofibers that, when placed on dead heart tissue resulting from a heart attack, regenerates the dead tissue. The device, which looks like a small black band-aid and measures 22 millimeters long by 15 microns thick, works by drawing cardiomyocytes—specialized cells that form heart muscle—to the dead tissue area. After reaching the nano-surface, the heart cells begin to spawn, effectively regenerating the heart tissue destroyed by a heart attack. 

What’s the Big Idea?

The new technology is most applicable for patients who have suffered a heart attack and who are therefore at higher risk of another. Because a heart attack kills heart tissue, one-time heart attack victims are at a higher risk of having a second heart attack. “In 2009, some 785,000 Americans suffered a new heart attack linked to weakness caused by the scarred cardiac muscle from a previous heart attack, according to the American Heart Association.” The same nanotechnology that enabled this heart patch has wide application in other fields. Research is currently being conducted to develop bendable laptops, new drug delivery systems and novel diagnostic tools. 


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