Researchers build cardiac tissue using gold nanowires for heart attack patients

A team of researchers at MIT and Children's Hospital Boston has built cardiac patches studded with tiny gold wires that could be used to create pieces of tissue whose cells all beat in time, mimicking the dynamics of natural heart muscle.

A scanning electron microscope (SEM) image of nanowire-alginate composite scaffolds. Star-shaped clusters of nanowires can be seen in these images. Image courtesy of the Disease Biophysics Group, Harvard University
The development could someday help people who have suffered heart attacks.

The study, reported this week in Nature Nanotechnology, promises to improve on existing cardiac patches, which have difficulty achieving the level of conductivity necessary to ensure a smooth, continuous ''beat'' throughout a large piece of tissue.

''The heart is an electrically quite sophisticated piece of machinery,'' says Daniel Kohane, a professor in the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology (HST) and senior author of the paper. ''It is important that the cells beat together, or the tissue won't function properly.''

The unique new approach uses gold nanowires scattered among cardiac cells as they're grown in vitro, a technique that ''markedly enhances the performance of the cardiac patch,'' Kohane says. The researchers believe the technology may eventually result in implantable patches to replace tissue that's been damaged in a heart attack.

Co-first authors of the study are MIT postdoc Brian Timko and former MIT postdoc Tal Dvir, now at Tel Aviv University in Israel; other authors are their colleagues from HST, Children's Hospital Boston and MIT's Department of Chemical Engineering, including Robert Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor.