Cyborg heart tissue offers life-saving breakthrough for patients
First-ever bionic heart patch promises to revolutionize the field of cardiac research.
We read about technological breakthroughs seemingly every day that make us shake our heads in disbelief – from augmented reality to flying hovercrafts. There's something about advancements in hacking the human body, however, that truly introduces our jaws to the floor. Today is one of those moments. A breakthrough so out of this world so as to make the line between reality and science fiction nearly indistinguishable.
Scientists from Tel Aviv University in Israel have successfully created the world's first "cyborg heart patch." The bionic tissue, created from both organic and engineered parts, will allow cardiac doctors around the world to effectively replace damaged heart tissue caused by heart attacks and disease. With cardiovascular disease a leading cause of death worldwide, this invention has the potential to save the lives of millions of people.
"With this heart patch, we have integrated electronics and living tissue," lead author Professor Tal Dvir from Tel Aviv University said in a statement from Israel. "It's very science fiction, but it's already here, and we expect it to move cardiac research forward in a big way."
As one with any healthy appreciation for the world of science fiction might expect, this breakthrough bionic tissue does more than just mimic heart muscle. Nano-electronics embedded in the tissue not only send wireless information to doctors about a patient's status, but can also release medication to encourage cell growth, reduce the likelihood of rejection and counteract cardiac inflammation.
"Imagine that a patient is just sitting at home, not feeling well," Dvir said. "His physician will be able to log onto his computer and this patient's file – in real time. He can view data sent remotely from sensors embedded in the engineered tissue and assess exactly how his patient is doing. He can intervene to properly pace the heart and activate drugs to regenerate tissue from afar."
Has your jaw joined ours on the floor yet? Dvir added that eventually, the cyborg tissue will evolve to a point where it automatically detects and reacts to a malfunctioning heart, possibly with no physician intervention necessary.
While the cyborg patch is still in the proof-of-concept stage and has yet to be tested with people, applications beyond heart tissue in fields of research such as brain and spinal cord treatments are already being considered. As for your own heart health, Dvir said that while this breakthrough is promising, your best bet for a long life is still a healthy diet and exercise.
"I would not suggest bingeing on cheeseburgers or quitting sports just yet," he said.
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