Cardiac dysfunction following acute myocardial infarction is a major cause of advanced cardiomyopathy. Conventional pharmacological therapies rely on prompt reperfusion and prevention of repetitive maladaptive pathways. Keratin biomaterials can be manufactured in an autologous fashion and are effective in various models of tissue regeneration. However, its potential application in cardiac regeneration has not been tested. Keratin biomaterials were derived from human hair and its structure morphology, carryover of beneficial factors, biocompatibility with cardiomyocytes, and in vivo degradation profile were characterized. After delivery into infarcted rat hearts, the keratin scaffolds were efficiently infiltrated by cardiomyocytes and endothelial cells. Injection of keratin biomaterials promotes angiogenesis but does not exacerbate inflammation in the post-MI hearts. Compared to control-injected animals, keratin biomaterials-injected animals exhibited preservation of cardiac function and attenuation of adverse ventricular remodeling over the 8 week following time course. Tissue western blot analysis revealed up-regulation of beneficial factors (BMP4, NGF, TGF-beta) in the keratin-injected hearts. The salient functional benefits, the simplicity of manufacturing and the potentially autologous nature of this biomaterial provide impetus for further translation to the clinic.
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