Smart Clothing

There’s no need to don uncomfortable smartwatches or chest straps to monitor your heart if your comfy shirt can do a better job. That’s the idea behind “smart clothing” developed by a Rice University lab, which employed its conductive nanotube thread to weave functionality into regular apparel.

The Brown School of Engineering lab of chemical and biomolecular engineer Matteo Pasquali reported in the American Chemical Society journal Nano Letters that it sewed nanotube fibers into athletic wear to monitor the heart rate and take a continual electrocardiogram (EKG) of the wearer. The fibers are just as conductive as metal wires, but washable, comfortable and far less likely to break when a body is in motion, according to the researchers. On the whole, the shirt they enhanced was better at gathering data than a standard chest-strap monitor taking live measurements during experiments. When matched with commercial medical electrode monitors, the carbon nanotube shirt gave slightly better EKGs.

Rice University graduate student Lauren Taylor shows a shirt with carbon nanotube thread that provides constant monitoring of the wearer’s heart

The shirt has to be snug against the chest,” said Rice graduate student Lauren Taylor, lead author of the study. “In future studies, we will focus on using denser patches of carbon nanotube threads so there’s more surface area to contact the skin.”

Source: https://news.rice.edu/

Active Cardiac Inflammation in 60% Of Covid Patients

Two German studies published today in JAMA Cardiology show abnormal heart imaging findings in recently recovered COVID-19 patients, and cardiac infections in those who have died from their infections.

The first, an observational cohort study, involved 100 unselected coronavirus patients identified from the University Hospital Frankfurt COVID-19 Registry from April to June, 57 risk factor-matched patients, and 50 healthy volunteers. Cardiac magnetic resonance (CMR) imaging revealed heart involvement in 78 patients and active cardiac inflammation in 60, independent of underlying conditions, disease severity, overall course of illness, and time from diagnosis to CMR.

Thirty-three of 100 patients required hospitalization. Detectable levels of high-sensitivity troponin were found in 71 COVID-19 patients, while significantly elevated levels were detected in five patients. Recovered COVID-19 patients had lower left ventricular ejection fraction, higher left ventricle volumes, higher left ventricle mass, and elevated native T1 and T2 than controls, all indicating heart dysfunction. Seventy-eight coronavirus patients had abnormal CMR findings, including 73 with raised myocardial native T1, 60 with raised myocardial native T2, 32 with myocardial late gadolinium enhancement, and 22 with pericardial enhancement, all signs of heart damage. Biopsy of the heart muscle in patients with serious findings showed ongoing immune-mediated inflammation.

The study authors noted that while most coronavirus research has focused on short-term respiratory complications, particularly in critically ill patients, mounting evidence suggests that COVID-19 has a significant impact on the cardiovascular system by worsening heart failure in patients with preexisting cardiac diseases. In this study, CMR revealed several kinds of heart abnormalities, each of which can be tied to underlying dysfunction and worse outcomes, the authors said. They added that their study also showed that direct tissue characterization with mapping measures on CMR is the most sensitive and clinically relevant way to detect early heart disease.

While left and right ventricular ejection fraction were significantly reduced, there was a large overlap between patients recently recovered from COVID-19 and both control groups, demonstrating that volumes and function are inferior markers of disease detection,” they wrote.

The second study involved the autopsies of 39 COVID-19 patients conducted from Apr 8 to 18. Pathologists from the Legal Medicine at the University Medical Center Hamburg Eppendorf identified evidence of the COVID-19–causing SARSCoV-2 virus—but not clinically relevant inflammation of the heart muscle—in 24 cadavers (61.5%), 16 (41.0%) of which had high loads of viral RNA.

Of the 24 cadavers with heart infections, a cytokine response panel showed that expression of six pro-inflammatory genes was higher in the 16 with high viral loads than in the 8 with low viral loads. But there were no signs of a massive influx of inflammatory cells into the heart muscle or tissue death in either group. Cause of death was listed as pneumonia in 35 cases (89.7%), while the other four (10.2%) died of necrotizing fasciitis, cardiac decompensation with previous heart failure, bacterial bronchitis, or unknown causes. The most common underlying illnesses were coronary artery disease (32 [82.0%]), high blood pressure (17 [43.6%]), and diabetes (7 [17.9%]). Median patient age was 85 years, and 23 of 39 patients (59%) were women.

Overt fulminant myocarditis has been reported in isolated patients with SARS-CoV-2 infection,” the authors wrote. “However, the current data indicate that the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in cardiac tissue does not necessarily cause an inflammatory reaction consistent with clinical myocarditis.”

Source: https://www.cidrap.umn.edu/

Gene Therapy Combats Efficiently Age-related Diseases

As we age, our bodies tend to develop diseases like heart failure, kidney failure, diabetes, and obesity, and the presence of any one disease increases the risk of developing others. In traditional drug development, a drug usually only targets one condition, largely ignoring the interconnectedness of age-related diseases, such as obesity, diabetes, and heart failure, and requiring patients to take multiple drugs, which increases the risk of negative side effects.

A new study from the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University and Harvard Medical School (HMS) reports that a single administration of an adeno-associated virus (AAV)-based gene therapy delivering combinations of three longevity-associated genes to mice dramatically improved or completely reversed multiple age-related diseases, suggesting that a systems-level approach to treating such diseases could improve overall health and lifespan. The research is reported in PNAS.

The AAV-based gene therapy improved the function of the heart and other organs in mice with various age-related diseases, suggesting that such an approach could help maintain health during aging.

The results we saw were stunning, and suggest that holistically addressing aging via gene therapy could be more effective than the piecemeal approach that currently exists,” said first author Noah Davidsohn, Ph.D., a former Research Scientist at the Wyss Institute and HMS who is now the Chief Technology Officer of Rejuvenate Bio. “Everyone wants to stay as healthy as possible for as long as possible, and this study is a first step toward reducing the suffering caused by debilitating diseases.

The study was conducted in the lab of Wyss Core Faculty member George Church, Ph.D. as part of Davidsohn’s postdoctoral research into the genetics of aging. Davidsohn, Church, and their co-authors honed in on three genes that had previously been shown to confer increased health and lifespan benefits when their expression was modified in genetically engineered mice: FGF21, sTGFβR2, and αKlotho. They hypothesized that providing extra copies of those genes to non-engineered mice via gene therapy would similarly combat age-related diseases and confer health benefits.

The team created separate gene therapy constructs for each gene using the AAV8 serotype as a delivery vehicle, and injected them into mouse models of obesity, type II diabetes, heart failure, and renal failure both individually and in combination with the other genes to see if there was a synergistic beneficial effect.

Source; https://wyss.harvard.edu/

Battery-free Pacemakers Powered By A Patient’s Heartbeat

A new device powered by the heart could finally solve the pacemaker problem. Some 1.5 million Americans have pacemakers implanted to keep their hearts beating steadily. The devices are life-saving, but they don’t last forever. Currently, most pacemaker batteries have to be replaced every five to 12 years, and doing so means invasive surgery each time. Researchers at the National Key Laboratory for Science and Technology in Shanghai, China have developed a tiny device that piggybacks off the heart itself to generate energy – meaning a pacemaker battery would never have to be replaced.

A healthy heart can keep time for itself, by way of an internal pacemaker called the sinus node in the upper right chamber. It fires off an electrical charge some 60 to 100 times a minute, and that electrical energy sets off a series of contractions of heart muscle which in turn pumps blood throughout the body. But as the heart ages or once it becomes diseased, the sinus node takes a hit, too, and may fail to keep the heart beating in time or at all. Fortunately, since the late 1950s, we’ve been able to substitute a small, implantable, battery-powered device to send these electrical signals once the heart can’t any more. Even 60 years later, however, we haven’t figured out what to do about the device’s power supply, however.

Surgery to place the pacemaker and wires that feed its electrical pulses to the heart is complex, requiring doctors to open the chest cavity. The pacemaker itself is tucked away in a ‘pocket’ much closer to the skin surface. Once the battery runs out, usually only a local anesthetic is required to remove the old device and put a new, fully charged one.  Still, the procedure is an unpleasant hassle that comes with a risk of infection, and it’s expensive to have done. Depending on the pacemaker, the device itself may cost anywhere from $19,000 to $96,000, according to Costhelper – and that doesn’t include the expenses for the operation.

But the new Chinese-developed device shows promise to end the procedure.  The new pacemaker accessory can actually harness the heart’s beats to power a pacemaker. The key to innovation is its flexible plastic frame, which allows the device to capture more energy from the heart than previous hard cases have done. At the device’s center are layers of piezoelectric material, which generates power whenever it is bent. Many materials acquire an electrical charge when force is applied to them, including natural ones in our bodies. Crystals, DNA and even bone are capable of capturing electrical energy. The trick is to apply enough force to a piezoelectric material, then supercharge it, because, on their own, these materials don’t work up all that much energy.

Scientists have long been looking to piezoelectricity as an elegant solution to recapturing otherwise wasted energy, and some have even applied it to the pacemaker before. But, previously, other researchers have not been able to create a device that bends enough to generate sufficient power. Now, the Chinese scientists have shown their device can fuel a pacemaker and keep a pig’s heart beating. The devices frame allows it to flex significantly with as little movement as is created by a heartbeat. While the pacemaker itself is implanted in its usual place, near the collar bone and just under the skin, the new power device is tucked underneath the heart, where the organ’s contractions bend it rhythmically.  In tests in pigs, the new pacemaker generated just as much power as a pacemaker, using a completely renewable energy source.

Source: http://pubs.acs.org/
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