OTTAWA, Ontario — Having a “heart of gold” may literally be the ticket to a longer life. Researchers at the University of Ottawa have created a gold spray which can repair a damaged heart and may one day help treat cases of cardiovascular disease.
This innovative technique sprays extremely tiny particles of gold and peptides on a patient’s heart. From there, the customized nanoparticles help restore both heart function and the electrical conductivity of the organ.
During minimally invasive surgeries on mice, researchers sprayed the animals’ hearts with low concentrations of peptide-modified gold particles. The nozzle they used to carry out this procedure evenly “painted” the surface of the heart in seconds.
Why use gold?
So, how can a precious metal make the heart work properly. Previous studies have found that gold nanoparticles contain unusual properties and are highly chemically reactive. Although they are tinier than the human eye can see, scientists have been studying how to incorporate them into a wide range of different fields.
In this experiment, researchers modified the gold particles with peptides — short chains of amino acids. The spray-on therapy increased cardiac function and electrical conductivity in the mice hearts. Moreover, the team found that the gold did not leach into any other organs.
Dr. Emilio Alarcon and his team believe the technology could one day become part of the process doctors go through during coronary artery bypass surgery.
“That’s the beauty of this approach. You spray, then you wait a couple of weeks, and the animals are doing just fine compared to the controls,” says Dr. Alarcon, from the Faculty of Medicine and the University of Ottawa Heart Institute, in a university release.
Spray away heart disease?
Dr. Alarcon adds that results show their spray-on nanotherapeutic is highly effective. Additionally, the team says applying the treatment is much simpler than other regenerative treatments for a damaged heart.
Although the first successful surgery surprised the Canadian team, Dr. Alarcon says the following procedures produced the same, beneficial results. Researchers are now working to adapt their technology to work on larger animals, including rabbits and pigs.
Cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death worldwide. The condition, which can lead to heart attack, heart failure, and stroke, claims roughly 18 lives each year.
The study is published in the journal ACS Nano.