Tel Aviv University researchers are literally setting a new gold standard in cardiac tissue engineering to develop functional substitutes for damaged heart tissues.

Novel biocompatible cardiac patch comprises  gold nanoparticles. (Shutterstock)
Novel biocompatible cardiac patch comprises gold nanoparticles. (Shutterstock)

Because heart cells cannot multiply and cardiac muscles contain few stem cells, heart tissue is unable to repair itself after a heart attack. So, Dr. Tal Dvir and his graduate student Michal Shevach of TAU’s Department of Biotechnology,Department of Materials Science and Engineering, and Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, set out to develop innovative methods to restore heart function.

Using sophisticated micro- and nanotechnological tools — ranging in size from one millionth to one billionth of a meter — they created cardiac “patches” with gold particles that could be transplanted into the body to replace damaged heart tissue. The integration of gold nanoparticles into cardiac tissue, Dr. Dvir and his team discovered, increased the conductivity of biomaterials.

“To address our electrical signaling problem, we deposited gold nanoparticles on the surface of our patient-harvested matrix, ‘decorating’ the biomaterial with conductors,” said Dr. Dvir. “The result was that the nonimmunogenic hybrid patch contracted nicely due to the nanoparticles, transferring electrical signals much faster and more efficiently than non-modified scaffolds.”

In a study published by Nano Letters, Dr. Dvir’s team presented their model for a superior hybrid cardiac patch, which incorporates biomaterial harvested from patients and gold nanoparticles.

“Our goal was twofold,” said Dr. Dvir. “To engineer tissue that would not trigger an immune response in the patient and to fabricate a functional patch not beset by signaling or conductivity problems.”