Israeli Team Announces First 3D-Printed Heart Using Human Cells

The world’s first complete 3D printer-generated heart, made using the patient’s own cells and materials, has been created in a lab.

Until now, success has been limited to printing only simple tissues without blood vessels.

“This is the first time anyone anywhere has successfully engineered and printed an entire heart replete with cells, blood vessels, ventricles and chambers,” said team leader Tal Dvir.

The printer-generated heart is only about a third the size of an actual human heart — and it doesn’t actually work. But it’s a groundbreaking step toward engineering customized organs that can be transplanted with less risk of rejection.

“This heart is made from human cells and patient-specific biological materials,” said Dvir, a researcher at the Sagol Center for Regenerative Biotechnology at Tel Aviv University in Israel. “In our process these materials serve as the bio-inks, substances made of sugars and proteins that can be used for 3D printing of complex tissue models.”

Dvir noted that scientists have managed to print a 3D structure of a heart before, but not with cells or blood vessels. “Our results demonstrate the potential of our approach for engineering personalized tissue and organ replacement in the future,” he said in a university news release.

The research was published online in the journal Advanced Science.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. A transplant is the only treatment available to patients with end-stage heart failure, but there is a severe shortage of heart donors.

That means there’s an urgent need to develop new ways to regenerate a diseased heart, according to the researchers.

The use of biological materials from a patient is key to successful engineering of tissues and organs, Dvir explained. The compatibility of engineered materials is key to eliminating rejection risk.

“Ideally, the biomaterial should possess the same biochemical, mechanical and topographical properties of the patient’s own tissues,” Dvir noted. “Here, we can report a simple approach to 3D-printed thick, vascularized and perfusable cardiac tissues that completely match the immunological, cellular, biochemical and anatomical properties of the patient.”

While the 3D-printed heart is about the size of a rabbit’s heart, the same technology can be used to print a normal-sized one, he said.

The next step is culturing printed hearts in the lab and “teaching them to behave” like hearts, Dvir added. Then, researchers plan to transplant the 3D-printed heart into lab animals.

“We need to develop the printed heart further,” Dvir said. “The cells need to form a pumping ability; they can currently contract, but we need them to work together. Our hope is that we will succeed and prove our method’s efficacy and usefulness.”

Dvir looks to the future with optimism.

“Maybe, in 10 years, there will be organ printers in the finest hospitals around the world, and these procedures will be conducted routinely,” he said.

Source: HealthDay

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Food Label with Added Sugars Content Could Lower Heart Disease/Diabetes Risk

A label showing added sugars content on all packaged foods and sugary drinks could have substantial health and cost-saving benefits in the United States over the next 20 years, according to a new study published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation. Using a validated model, researchers were able to estimate a significant reduction in cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes cases from 2018 to 2037, if such a mandated addition to the Nutrition Label was implemented.

Poor diet, especially with overconsumption of sugar, is a known, preventable cause of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced an added sugars-labeling requirement on the Nutrition Facts label in 2016.

“The purpose of our study was to estimate the impact of the FDA’s added sugars label on reducing sugar intake and preventing diabetes and cardiovascular disease,” says Renata Micha, R.D., Ph.D., of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Boston. “Our results indicate that timely implementation of the added sugars label could reduce consumption of foods and beverages with added sugars, which could then lead to an improvement in health and a reduction in healthcare spending.”

The study was conducted as part of a National Institutes of Health-funded initiative, Food-PRICE, at Tufts University to identify nutrition strategies that can have the greatest impact on improving diet and health in the U.S.

The researchers predict that between 2018 and 2037, the added sugars label would prevent more than 354,000 cardiovascular disease cases and lead to almost 600,000 fewer cases of type 2 diabetes. The estimated reduction in net healthcare costs would be more than $31 billion, after policy costs have been factored in, and not including societal costs, such as lost productivity.

“We and others have shown that food labeling can be an effective strategy to support informed consumer choice and effectively change consumer behavior,” said Micha.

The study authors believe that the added sugars label would likely encourage food and beverage-makers to reformulate their products. As a result, they calculate the impact to be twice as great as having the added sugars label alone, at more than 700,000 fewer cases of cardiovascular disease and 1.2 million fewer diabetes cases, with net healthcare cost savings of more than $57 billion.

In explaining the potential effect that a mandated added sugars label would have on sugar content, Micha points to recent experience with food manufacturers who reduced or removed trans fats from their products following trans-fat labeling on products in the U.S. “That suggests that mandated labeling of added sugars content would stimulate the food industry to reduce sugar in their products,” she said.

“Clear, easy-to-understand nutrition labels help guide everyone on the path to healthy eating,” says Linda Van Horn, PHD, RDN., American Heart Association volunteer expert and Professor and Chief of Nutrition in the Department of Preventive Medicine at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, in Chicago. “Consumers are better empowered to make more informed food choices that will help reduce their risk for heart disease and stroke and live longer, healthier lives.”

Although there have been recent declines in sugar consumption, mainly from sugary drinks, Americans still consume more than 300 calories per day from added sugar. The largest single source is sugary drinks, followed by cookies, cakes and pastries, candies and ice cream.

“Our findings may be conservative and underestimate the full health and economic impacts. The model only evaluated health benefits and cost-savings from diabetes and cardiovascular disease outcomes,” said Micha, who added that impact on other health concerns could further contribute to health benefits and reduced costs.

The study was conducted as part of the Food-PRICE: Food Policy Review and Intervention Cost-Effectiveness research initiative (www.food-price.org), a National Institutes of Health-funded collaboration led by Tufts University researchers to identify nutrition strategies that can have the greatest impact on improving diet and health in the US.

Source: American Heart Association

Science Suggests Yoga is Heart-Healthy

For years, aerobic exercise has been touted for its numerous health benefits, including improved cardiovascular health, better mood, increased energy, and stronger bones and muscles. But there’s another form of physical activity that’s grabbing headlines — yoga.

Some studies suggest the mind-body practice may be good for heart health, from reducing blood pressure and cholesterol to lowering stress and body mass index.

While yoga often is associated with images of limber practitioners, it is more than just stretching and handstands. Originated in India, yoga includes physical poses (asana), breathwork (pranayama) and meditation. There are many yoga styles, including Hatha, Iyengar, restorative and hot yoga, each with a specific emphasis such as alignment or relaxation.

Recently, more Americans are stepping onto the mat. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 14.3 percent of U.S. adults — or 35.2 million — practiced yoga in 2017, up from 9.5 percent in 2012. Many take up the practice as a holistic approach to health and wellness, and for its stress-busting effect.

“There’s a huge body of literature that says psychosocial stressors such as work and marital stress, as well as anxiety and depression, are associated with increased risk for cardiovascular disease,” said Dr. Puja Mehta, an assistant professor of medicine in the division of cardiology at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. “With chronic stress, the sympathetic nervous system is in overdrive,” which can lead to inflammation and increased blood pressure.

Yoga may help put the brakes on the body’s stress response by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, or the “rest and digest” system, through deep breathing and relaxation, Mehta said. Cultivating mindfulness also may encourage participants to engage in other habits that boost cardiovascular health by promoting self-awareness and self-care behaviors.

“(This) can have a profound effect on supporting the engagement of healthy behaviors of diet and physical activity,” said Dr. Gloria Yeh, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of mind-body research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

Research also shows yoga may lower cardiovascular risk factors. Yeh coauthored a 2014 review of clinical research published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology that found yoga had a significant impact on cardiometabolic risk factors compared to doing no exercise at all.

For example, yoga decreased total cholesterol by 18.48 mg/dl and triglycerides by 25.89 mg/dl more than the change seen in the control group. Blood pressure improved too. Systolic and diastolic blood pressure decreased 5.21 mmHg and 4.98 mmHg, respectively.

The benefits also extend to people with heart disease. Among people with paroxysmal atrial fibrillation, in which symptoms come and go, doing 12 weeks of yoga combined with deep breathing resulted in a lower heart rate, lower blood pressure and higher mental health scores compared to those who didn’t do yoga, according to a 2016 study published in the European Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing.

Mehta said although these and other scientific studies show promising results, there are some limitations, such as a small number of participants. In addition, because yoga encompasses a variety of elements, there isn’t a standard dose of yoga, which makes comparisons across studies difficult, she said.

Both Yeh and Mehta said more research is needed, including more randomized clinical trials and a better understanding of the exact mechanism behind yoga’s cardiovascular benefits.

“We need to better understand for whom yoga may be more beneficial and how,” Yeh said. “Because yoga is so heterogeneous with many different styles and emphases, we’d like to be able to match the right exercises with the right people at the right time. We need to understand how best to integrate yoga with other lifestyle measures.”

And the biggest research question remains, Mehta said: “Are you going to live longer and not have cardiovascular events like heart attack or stroke?”

For older adults and people new to yoga, Mehta recommends looking for gentle, restorative or chair-based classes. People with heart disease or high blood pressure may need to modify some poses and avoid postures that place the head below the heart, she said. Experts also suggest pregnant women in particular steer clear of “hot yoga,” or yoga classes that take place in a heated room, because of the risk of overheating and dehydration.

The bottom line, Yeh said, is that yoga is exercise and “any exercise is better than no exercise, so the activity that someone will do — and enjoy doing — will be the one that provides the most benefit.”

Source: HealthDay


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What Is the TAVR Procedure Used to Repair Heart Valve Problem?

Global media reports say Rolling Stones frontman, Mick Jagger, is recovering after undergoing a heart valve procedure called TAVR at a New York Hospital.

The American Heart Association website defines TAVR (transcatheter aortic valve replacement) as a minimally invasive surgical procedure that repairs the valve without removing the old, damaged valve. Instead, it wedges a replacement valve into the aortic valve’s place. The surgery may be called a TAVR or transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI).

Here’s how it works, somewhat similar to a stent placed in an artery, the TAVR approach delivers a fully collapsible replacement valve to the valve site through a catheter. Once the new valve is expanded, it pushes the old valve leaflets out of the way and the tissue in the replacement valve takes over the job of regulating blood flow.

This procedure is fairly new and is FDA approved for people with symptomatic aortic stenosis who are considered an intermediate or high risk patient for standard valve replacement surgery. The differences in the two procedures are significant.

Usually valve replacement requires an open heart procedure with a “sternotomy,” in which the chest is surgically separated (opened) for the procedure. The TAVR or TAVI procedures can be done through very small openings that leave all the chest bones in place.

A TAVR procedure is not without risks, but it provides beneficial treatment options to people who may not have been candidates for them a few years ago while also providing the added bonus of a faster recovery in most cases. A patient’s experience with a TAVR procedure may be comparable to a balloon treatment or even an angiogram in terms of down time and recovery, and will likely require a shorter hospital stay (average 3-5 days).

The TAVR procedure is performed using one of two different approaches, allowing the cardiologist or surgeon to choose which one provides the best and safest way to access the valve:

  • Entering through the femoral artery (large artery in the groin), called the transfemoral approach, which does not require a surgical incision in the chest, or
  • Using a minimally invasive surgical approach with a small incision in the chest and entering through a large artery in the chest or through the tip of the left ventricle (the apex), which is known as the transapical approach.

At this time the procedure is reserved for those people for whom an open heart procedure poses intermediate risk. For that reason, most people who have this procedure are in their 70s or 80 and often have other medical conditions that make them a better candidate for this type of surgery.

“TAVR has truly transformed the care of patients with aortic stenosis who require aortic valve replacement, who can now have successful valve replacement without need for open heart surgery. This procedure achieves excellent results equivalent to those of surgery, but with low risk and shorter recovery times,” says Robert O. Bonow, MD, MS American Heart Association past president, Professor of Cardiology, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, in Chicago.

Source : American Heart Association


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Risks for Heart Valve Problems . . . . .

What’s Bad for the Heart Is also Bad for the Brain

Lisa Rapaport wrote . . . . . . . . .

People who have risk factors for heart disease like diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity may also be more likely to develop structural changes in the brain that can lead to dementia, a recent study suggests.

Researchers examined data on 9,772 adults, ages 44 to 79, who all had at least one MRI brain scan and provided general health information and medical records for the analysis.

The researchers looked for associations between brain structure and so-called vascular risk factors. They found that except for high cholesterol, all of the other vascular risk factors – smoking, high blood pressure, high pulse pressure, diabetes, and obesity – were linked to abnormal brain changes seen in dementia.

And the more vascular risk factors a person had, the poorer was their brain health, as evidenced by greater brain shrinkage, less gray matter (tissue mainly on the surface of the brain) and less healthy white matter (tissue in deeper parts of the brain).

“There are some things that contribute to cognitive and brain aging that we cannot change (like our genes), so you could look at this like a list of things that we can have some agency over – so-called ‘malleable’ risk factors,” said lead study author Simon Cox of the University of Edinburgh in the U.K.

“There are so many other benefits to improving your cardiovascular health (improving diet, weight, exercise, blood sugar control) and stopping smoking, but in combination with other good evidence out there, maintaining brain health is probably another one,” Cox said by email.

The strongest links between the vascular risk factors and brain structure were in areas of the brain known to be responsible for our more complex thinking skills, and which deteriorate during the development of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Risk factors for heart disease appeared to impact brain health just as much in middle age as they did later in life, researchers report in the European Heart Journal.

Source: Reuters


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