A cyborg cardiac patch may prove to be helpful in alleviating heart disease in the future.
Over a fourth of the people who are on the waiting list for a heart will die before they get one. In spite of this dismal figure, heart transplants are a regular feature of the modern American landscape.
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No other option exists in the current time in history. Now all that is about to change. Termed a cyborg cardiac patch, this creative contraption from Israel may be a game changer in heart disease research. It contains both organic and technological parts which seem to meld inseparably with each other.
This miracle which is a combination of man and machine has several things going for it. In fact, it has a range of functions that exceed the human capacity on its own.
While it pulsates like a human heart, it is also regulated like a machine would be in the material world. It is a creation of a professor and his student as well as several institutes and departments.
The study regarding this joint effort was published in the journal Nature Materials. The invention is the joint effort of Prof. Tal Dvir and PhD student Ron Feiner of TAU's Department of Biotechnology, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, and Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology.
The patch integrates biology and electronics. This reminds one of bionic powers and the world of science fiction. The only difference is that this is science fact.
"With this heart patch, we have integrated electronics and living tissue," Dr. Dvir said. "It's very science fiction, but it's already here, and we expect it to move cardiac research forward in a big way. Until now, we could only engineer organic cardiac tissue, with mixed results. Now we have produced viable bionic tissue, which ensures that the heart tissue will function properly."
Up until now, no such mixed tissue had been made that could function without a hitch. However, this is a functional material made of life and non-life interacting in a seamless manner.
"We first ensured that the cells would contract in the patch, which explains the need for organic material," said Dr. Dvir. "But, just as importantly, we needed to verify what was happening in the patch and regulate its function. We also wanted to be able to release drugs from the patch directly onto the heart to improve its integration with the host body."
The labs of the scientists have been pretty busy manufacturing artificial tools that blur the boundaries between the biological and the technological. It was a precarious procedure that had to be followed in order to manufacture the cyborg cardiac patch. Many things came together and dovetailed and finally in the end the scientists called it a day.
The achievement is monumental. The future depends on it. If in the times to come, a patient is not feeling well, he can contact his GP online. The general practitioner will log onto the patient’s files in cyberspace and receive information from the sensors embedded in his cyborg cardiac patch.
He can then intervene to make the patch release certain drugs and act in accordance with due protocol so that the patient is relieved of his symptoms.
Ultimately this selfsame scenario can be automated so that the cyborg cardiac patch regulates itself as per emergency situation. While this is very revolutionary in its scope, it is not a free ticket to gobble double quarterpounders with extra cheese or become a couch potato. Caution is just as important as cure.
"Imagine that a patient is just sitting at home, not feeling well," Dr. Dvir said. "His physician will be able to log onto his computer and this patient's file — in real time. He can view data sent remotely from sensors embedded in the engineered tissue and assess exactly how his patient is doing. He can intervene to properly pace the heart and activate drugs to regenerate tissue from afar.
"The longer-term goal is for the cardiac patch to be able to regulate its own welfare. In other words, if it senses inflammation, it will release an anti-inflammatory drug. If it senses a lack of oxygen, it will release molecules that recruit blood-vessel-forming cells to the heart."
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"This is a breakthrough, to be sure," Dr. Dvir said. "But I would not suggest binging on cheeseburgers or quitting sports just yet. The practical realization of the technology may take some time. Meanwhile, a healthy lifestyle is still the best way to keep your heart healthy."