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Reviving Cells After a Heart Attack

Researchers at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have revealed promising results in helping heart cells recover after suffering a heart attack by using stem cell extracellular vesicles. Extracellular vesicles (EVs) are microscopic messengers that facilitate communication between cells. They have recently discovered that EVs can also be extracted from endothelial cells, which line the surface of blood vessels. Endothelial-derived EVs (EEVs) are sturdier and easier to maintain than stem cells in a laboratory setting. Researchers have found that EVs have the ability to not only revive cells after cardiac arrest, but also keep the cells functioning in an anaerobic environment. Researchers conducted an experiment to show this functionality in the tissue by using “heart-on-a-chip” devices with sensors to track the periodic contractions of the tissue. Heart tissue treated with EEVs was found to be better adapted to survive stress conditions and had half as many dead cells compared to heart tissue that was not treated with EEVs. Kit Parker, the Tarr Family Professor of Bioengineering and Applied Physics at SEAS, said that “with our organ on chip platform, we will be poised to use synthetic exosomes in a therapeutic manner that may be more efficient and amenable to more reliable manufacturing." EEVs may be beneficial for heart attack survivors by aiding in their recovery, since this therapeutic approach focuses on targeting an entire network of cardiac related molecules, instead of targeting just one molecule, as in traditional methods.

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