Most of us don’t even know what nanotechnology is and yet it may hold the key to a ground breaking new treatment for heart attack patients. If you think the term nanotechnology sounds like something out of science fiction, then you might not be too far from the truth. According to the National Nanotechnology Institute, nanotechnology involves working with and controlling matter at an infinitely minute level called the nanoscale. One nanometer is equivalent to one-billionth of a meter which means that nanometers are so small that they can only be viewed using special microscopes. To put it in perspective, there are 25,400,000 nanometers in an inch.
Okay, so this is interesting but how does this relate to treating heart disease? By understanding matter on the nanoscale, scientists are able to not only control the matter, but also use it to solve problems or treat conditions that they have not been able to address before. As a result, new products can be created to meet those needs.
Researchers at the India Institute of Technology Kanpur in India partnered with engineers from Brown University to use nanotechnology to solve one of the problems facing heart attack patients: cell death in the wall of the heart. When a person has a heart attack, two types of cells die. The first type are nerve cells which are located in the heart wall. The second type of cells that die are the ones which enable the heart to expand and contract when it beats. Without this vital ability to expand and contract, the heart of heart attack victims lose synchronicity when it beats. Unfortunately, this type of damage is permanent and cannot be repaired with surgery, or fixed with medications or lifestyle changes.
Because of this, researchers sought to find a way to build new heart tissue to replace the damaged tissue. Using nanotechnology, researchers created a nanopatch made of carbon nanofibers, polymer, and heart-tissue. The results were quite promising. Researchers observed that heart tissue cells regenerated using the nanopatch at a greatly increased rate.