New delivery method could help regenerate heart tissue

When treating damage from heart attacks, doctors currently work to preserve the healthy tissue remaining in the heart. A new delivery method under development at Boston Children's Hospital could spur tissue regeneration after the fact.

In 2007, researchers discovered that a recombinant peptide of periostin can help regrow heart tissue and improve the organ's function, but just how to put the compound into action remained a mystery. Now, in a study published in PLoS One, the Boston cardiologists report that they have found a slow-release delivery method using the on-the-market Gelfoam.

The gel is sponge-like, commonly used to stop bleeding, and the researchers used it to coat the periostin and then inject the combination into the sac surrounding the heart. The Gelfoam proved to be a perfect platform: It absorbed the drug and formed a clot-like external layer, keeping it from breaking down inside the body and allowing it to mete out the peptide over 7 days. 

"We used the body's innate ability to respond to Gelfoam in this way to encapsulate the drug," researcher Brian Polizzotti explained to MedicalXpress. "That enables the drug to be released over time and exert its beneficial effect." And, while more research is needed, the early results were positive. In a swine model, the treatment led to no adverse reactions, and the Gelfoam held up allowing the researchers to administer the full treatment without affecting healthy tissue.

The researchers believe the Gelfoam delivery method could be used for other cardiological treatments, and, because the platform is already FDA-approved, testing new applications for it should be a speedy process. 

- read the MedicalXpress report
- check out the study in PLoS One