Scientists simulate a heart attack on a chip

Scientists simulated a heart attack on a chip. The experiment was a significant step towards understanding the electrophysiological responses of cells to ischemic heart attacks and can be used to develop drugs in the future. This is stated in the work of scientists from Tufts University, published in the journal Nano Letters.

Cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death worldwide. Most patients in this category suffer from cardiac ischemia, which occurs when the artery supplying blood to the heart is partially or completely blocked. If ischemia occurs for a long period of time, heart tissues lack oxygen – hypoxia, this can lead to tissue death or myocardial infarction.

In order to better study this process, the researchers created a microfluidic chip containing heart cells that can mimic hypoxic states after a heart attack.

The biosensor technology on which the chip is based combines multielectrode arrays, which provide an extracellular reading of voltage diagrams, with nanopolar probes, which enter the membrane to read voltage levels in each cell.

The tiny channels in the chip allow researchers to continuously and accurately regulate the environment flowing through the cells, reducing oxygen levels to about 1–4% to simulate hypoxia or increase oxygen levels to 21% to simulate normal conditions.

The development will allow a better study of the processes that occur in cells with ischemia and find a cure that will allow them to recover quickly, the study authors note.

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