How growing skin cells may save lives

Growing skin cells may be one solution to helping battle cardiovascular disease.

Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death globally, and there aren’t enough donor hearts to match the ever-increasing need. Thankfully with decades of incredible research and hard work, doctors and researchers have been able to develop the Ventricular Assist Device; a type of artificial heart that helps to pump blood around the body when the natural heart fails.

These life-saving devices do come with their shortfalls though, and there is constant work being undertaken to improve and perfect them for better patient outcomes. One common complication that arises is infection, which often starts at the driveline – a cable which connects the internal Ventricular Assist Device with an externally placed battery. While one direction of research is to remove the need for these drivelines altogether, realistically this work won’t be in use for potentially a decade.

In the meantime, researchers at The Prince Charles Hospital (Dr Shaun Gregory and Eleonore Bolle) have teamed up with QUT researchers (Dr Tim Dargaville and Dr Tony Parker) to take  a different approach; to test infection-resistant materials to use on the driveline. In addition to trying a new array of materials that reduce the chance of infection, the team are also looking into ways to do something never done before in this field; to create a 3D printed mesh that tissue can grow on.

The pictures above show that this research is already producing some exciting results.

“I used small pieces of both materials [polyurethane and Dacron] and placed skin cells on them , and then monitored them for 7 days… While cells formed a uniform layer on the polyurethane, they infiltrated the Dacron samples and wrapped around the fibres.” - Eleonore Bolle (shown in image on right)

Watch this space to hear more exciting news about this project in the future!

You can already read more about the fantastic work being done at The Common Good, or get behind a heart disease research project.


Heart Research

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