April 18 (UPI) -- A new device may help to reduce the amount of damage after a heart attack, new research shows.
A patch, designed by a team of reseachers, helped stop left ventricle heart muscle stretching in an experiment with rats. according to a study published April in Nature Biomedical Engineering.
"Part of the reason that it's hard for the heart to recover after a heart attack is that it has to keep pumping," Huajian Gao, a researcher at Brown University and study co-author, said in a news release. "The idea here is to provide mechanical support for damaged tissue, which hopefully gives it a chance to heal."
The left ventricle often stretches after a heart attack, which can damage its ability to pump blood. This new patch, the researchers say, was able to decrease scar tissue accumulation, oxidative stress and cell death that results from a heart attack.
"If the material is too hard or stiff, then you could confine the movement of the heart so that it can't expand to the volume it needs to be," Gao said. "But if the material is too soft, then it won't provide enough support. So we needed some mechanical principle to guide us."
To test the patch, the researchers built a model heart that expanded and contracted. The flexible, but firm substances in the patch allowed it to bend along with the beating heart model without giving way when it was stretched.
Now, researchers want to test the patch in human trials.
"It remains to be seen if it will work in human, but it's very promising," Gao said. "We don't see any reason right now that it wouldn't work."