Research ArticleBiomedical Engineering

Instructive Nanofiber Scaffolds with VEGF Create a Microenvironment for Arteriogenesis and Cardiac Repair

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Science Translational Medicine  08 Aug 2012:
Vol. 4, Issue 146, pp. 146ra109
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3003841

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Nanomaterials Help the Heart to Heal

Normally, the cure for a broken heart is time. After a heart attack, or myocardial infarction (MI), however, time can work against the heart, allowing tissue remodeling, scar formation, and overall heart failure. In an effort to speed up the healing process after MI, Lin and colleagues have created self-assembling peptide nanofibers (NFs) that, when injected into the heart tissue immediately after MI, lead to rapid repair and functional recovery.

The authors first tested the NF with and without varying doses of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) in a rat model. The material–growth factor combination was injected into the heart immediately after MI, and 28 days later had significantly improved cardiac function compared with NF or VEGF alone. The NF/VEGF treatment also prevented tissue remodeling and collagen deposition (which cause heart scarring) and reduced the infarct size. Moving to a large animal that more closely resembles human MI, Lin et al. injected the NF/VEGF combination material into heart tissue of pigs immediately after infarction and observed tissue repair and restored function, similar to the rat. The authors found that the NF created the optimal microenvironment for healing by promoting arteriogenesis (increased densities of arteries and arterioles) and by recruiting endogenous myofibroblasts and cardiomyocyte-like cells to the damaged tissue.

Moreover, for translation, the authors showed that their NF material helps to heal the heart in both small and large animal models, without harmful effects to other tissues. Before moving to patients, the material will need to be tested at later time points to mimic the sequence of events after a heart attack. Also, rather than direct myocardial injection, the material will likely need to be delivered via a minimally invasive catheter. With these considerations in mind, this promising NF/VEGF combination is ready to take a shot at healing the human heart.