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Donation Heart Ribbon

A Shot In The Heart May Repair Damage

Aired 3/5/12 on KPBS News.

A San Diego researcher has developed an injectable gel to repair damage caused by a heart attack.

— The semi-solid injectable called VentriGel was developed by UC San Diego bioengineer Karen Christman, Ph.D., and her colleagues.

Injectable gel could treat tissue damaged by heart attacks.

Above: Injectable gel could treat tissue damaged by heart attacks.

Christman derived the gel from tissue removed from the heart muscle of a pig.

“The hydrogel goes through a cleaning process. It’s freeze-dried and put into a powder form and then liquefied so it can be easily injected into the heart,” she said.

The hydrogel reaches the heart through a catheter, it requires no anesthesia and is considered minimally invasive.

Once the liquid hits body temperature, it turns into a gel that stimulates a stem cell like response to repopulate damaged heart tissues, said Christman.

Early studies in rats found the gel limited tissue damage in the heart following a heart attack.

(L-R) PhD student Todd Johnson and M.D./PhD student Jean Wang in the Christman Lab.

Above: (L-R) PhD student Todd Johnson and M.D./PhD student Jean Wang in the Christman Lab.

But, Christman said it would need to be injected within a month after a heart attack to be beneficial.

“Our initial application is looking at treating the early stages of tissue damage after someone has had a heart attack. We’d like to give VentriGel between one to three weeks after a heart attack,” said Christman.

She hopes the gel can be further developed to repair tissue months, or years, after heart damage has occurred.

Christman has co-founded the company Ventrix in hopes of starting clinical trials on the gel next year.

Her injectable-gel study was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

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