Heart attack on a chip

Researchers at the University of Southern California Alfred E. Mann Department of Biomedical Engineering have developed a “heart attack on a chip,” a device that could one day serve as a testbed to develop new heart drugs and even personalized medicines.

“Our device replicates some key features of a heart attack in a relatively simple and easy to use system,” said Megan McCain, an associate professor of biomedical engineering and stem cell biology and regenerative medicine, who developed the device with postdoctoral researcher Megan Rexius-Hall.

“This enables us to more clearly understand how the heart is changing after a heart attack. From there, we and others can develop and test drugs that will be most effective for limiting the further degradation of heart tissue that can occur after a heart attack,” added McCain.

McCain, a “cardiac tissue engineer,” whose work previously included co-developing a heart on a chip, and Rexius-Hall detail their findings in a recently released article in the journal Science Advances titled “A Myocardial Infarct Border-Zone-On-A-Chip Demonstrates Distinct Regulation of Cardiac Tissue Function by an Oxygen Gradient.”

America’s No. 1 killer

Coronary heart disease is America’s No. 1 killer. In 2018, 360,900 Americans succumbed to it, making heart disease responsible for 12.6% of all deaths in the United States, according to the AHA. Severe coronary heart disease can cause a heart attack, which accounts for much of that pain and suffering. Heart attacks occur when fat, cholesterol and other substances in the coronary arteries severely reduce the flow of oxygen-rich blood to part of the heart. Between 2005 and 2014, an average of 805,000 Americans per year had heart attacks.

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