Toward Regeneration of the Heart: Bioengineering Strategies for Immunomodulation.
Ferrini A., Stevens MM., Sattler S., Rosenthal N.
Myocardial Infarction (MI) is the most common cardiovascular disease. An average-sized MI causes the loss of up to 1 billion cardiomyocytes and the adult heart lacks the capacity to replace them. Although post-MI treatment has dramatically improved survival rates over the last few decades, more than 20% of patients affected by MI will subsequently develop heart failure (HF), an incurable condition where the contracting myocardium is transformed into an akinetic, fibrotic scar, unable to meet the body's need for blood supply. Excessive inflammation and persistent immune auto-reactivity have been suggested to contribute to post-MI tissue damage and exacerbate HF development. Two newly emerging fields of biomedical research, immunomodulatory therapies and cardiac bioengineering, provide potential options to target the causative mechanisms underlying HF development. Combining these two fields to develop biomaterials for delivery of immunomodulatory bioactive molecules holds great promise for HF therapy. Specifically, minimally invasive delivery of injectable hydrogels, loaded with bioactive factors with angiogenic, proliferative, anti-apoptotic and immunomodulatory functions, is a promising route for influencing the cascade of immune events post-MI, preventing adverse left ventricular remodeling, and offering protection from early inflammation to fibrosis. Here we provide an updated overview on the main injectable hydrogel systems and bioactive factors that have been tested in animal models with promising results and discuss the challenges to be addressed for accelerating the development of these novel therapeutic strategies.