After a heart attack, the body naturally releases enzymes as part of the inflammatory response to injury. But when this response is sustained too long, those enzymes– matrix metalloproteinases, or MMPs– begin to break up the extracellular matrix inside the muscle tissue that makes up the walls of the heart, making it thinner and weaker. The walls balloon out under the pressure of normal heart pumping, resulting in an enlarged heart that pumps less blood with each beat.
Although inhibitors can block the damage caused by MMPs, it’s been difficult to localize their application to specific areas of the heart. The hydrogels developed by Burdick can be injected to specific sites. Preliminary trials with pig hearts have shown a significant reduction in MMP production and ventricular remodeling.
For more information
Jason Burdick’s Lab: http://www.seas.upenn.edu/~burdick2/index.html
Research published at Nature Materials: http://www.nature.com/nmat/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nmat3922.html
Press release from the University of Pennsylvania: http://www.upenn.edu/pennnews/news/new-penn-designed-gel-allows-targeted-therapy-after-heart-attack
WHYY Newsworks article: http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/local/item/66434-01jmgel