Just because a person survived and recovers from a heart attack doesn’t mean that they’re completely out of the woods. This is because heart attacks can cause further damage to the body that could actually lead to more complications or additional heart attacks later, but researchers think that they might be closer to solving that problem.
The researchers at Rice University have developed a way to potentially repair heart tissue and reduce scarring through the use of capsules that are loaded by stem cells. Stem cells have been investigated before for use in such situations, but because they’re foreign to the body, it can lead to our body’s immune system wiping them out and rejecting them.
By using capsules and encapsulating the stem cells inside of them, the researchers are hoping that the “shield” will help protect the stem cells while they do their work. According to Ravi Ghanta, co-lead author of the study, “Initially, researchers had hoped that stem cells would become heart cells, but that has not appeared to be the case. Rather, the cells release healing factors that enable repair and reduce the extent of the injury. By utilizing this shielded therapy approach, we aimed to improve this benefit by keeping them alive longer and in greater numbers.”
At the moment, the researchers are testing out this new delivery system on mice and found that the mice who received these “shielded” stem cells healed as much as 2.5 times more than those who did not. The research is still in the early stages so it will be a while before we actually see it made available for humans, if at all.