The US has a serious problem with heart disease.
In 2016 alone, the American Heart Association reported that cardiovascular disease (CVD) cost the US over $500 billion. A really cool infographic from Digital Authority Partners suggests that by 2035, it will cost the US nearly $750 billion.
Furthermore, Simon Stertzer, M.D., a leading professor at Stanford University School of Medicine, estimates there are about 92 million American adults that are living with some form of CVD.
These factors have seen medical organizations across the country working to find solutions to this ever growing problem. There is still some time to go until they are ready but the early signs show that this epidemic can be controlled.
Here are some methods that will shape the future of cardiovascular treatment.
Stem Cell Research
Biotechnology is going to play a large role in the future of heart disease, particularly with stem cell research.
Researchers are hopeful that cellular therapy can become a long-lasting cure rather than using symptom-focused treatments. They are experimenting with a number of techniques to transplant the new cells to the patient in order to stimulate existing cells to generate healthy heart muscle tissue.
This is also being reverse engineered. One main benefit from this is for patients that have a genetic cause of CVD. Stem cells that created their own heart condition can be taken and help discover the cause and find cures, such as new drugs.
Researchers are focussing on three types of heart cells.
The first group are known as ‘cardiomyocytes’ and are responsible for the beating muscle cells that make up the atria, the chambers where blood enters and the ventricles where blood leaves and is pumped around the body.
The second group are called ‘cardiac pacemaker cells’. These are responsible for sending and receiving electrical signals to keep the heart beating in rhythm.
The third group are ‘endothelial cells’. These line blood vessel and help provide cardiomyocytes with oxygen.
Research is promising. There are signs that newly-formed beating cells can beat in unison but it’s still unknown if they will survive once the transplant has been completed. Plenty of work remains to be done before stem cells can be universally used as a treatment of heart disease.
Nanotechnology will be used in the future of cardiovascular treatments, with a lot of research already ongoing. Here are a few examples.
Firstly, scientists at North Carolina State University are developing a method to deliver cardiac stem cells to damaged heart tissue by attaching nanovesicles, that are attracted to an injury, to the stem cells which they hope will increase the number of stem cells delivered to the injured tissue.
Also, researchers at the University of Santa Barbara are in the process of constructing a nanoparticle that can deliver drugs to plaque on an artery wall. They aim to attach a peptide protein to a nanoparticle, which will then bind with the surface of the plaque. The purpose of these nanoparticles is to create an image of the existing plaque and to deliver a drug to treat the condition.
Finally, researchers at the University of South Carolina and Clemson are attempting to solve problems with collagen in the heart. Valves without sufficient collagen may not be able to function correctly. If they have too much, they become stiff, while too little makes them floppy. So, to combat this, scientists are combining gold nanoparticles with collagen to change the mechanical properties of the valves. This presents the possibility of repairing defective heart valves without surgery.
Personalised Heart Models
Every heart defect is unique, meaning no treatment is the same. This makes it tricky for surgeons to treat patients, particularly young children. However, Scientists at University College London are developing 3D-printed models of the heart from MRI scans of children with congenital heart disease.
Doctors will be able to explain a problem to patients and their families much easier with a personalised heart model, compared to traditional imagery such as echocardiograms.
Researchers have been working with Great Ormond Street Hospital to produce computer simulations to plan surgery for children born with heart defects. They believe this technology can help engage parents with the surgical team.
In terms of the surgery itself, they can be performed with more accuracy than ever before and much quicker, as all the analysis can be taken on the 3D-print, and. Plus, surgeons will be able to save more lives as they’ll have time to perform another operation.
The team plan to work with world health organisations to collect further evidence that shows how a 3D-printed heart can benefit sufferers of cardiovascular disease.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is the development of computer systems able to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence and will become key future treatments of heart disease.
One application of AI that may be used to fight against heart disease is through the use of chatbots. These are messaging platforms that are designed to study information provided by the user and provide answers quickly and accurately.
If there is not a simple answer, chatbots may be used to record a patient’s symptoms, which can then be passed on to a qualified physician for further analysis if required, saving the doctor time and treating more people.
Chatbots are actually being used today and are helping people suffering from cardiovascular disease.
However, this next application is one of the more advanced innovations in heart disease treatment using AI.
A subdivision of Google, namely Verily, is developing a program that can predict heart disease in a patient by merely scanning their eye. They have created this technology by studying a database of patients’ eyes and scanned them for patterns.
Researchers were looking at the back of the eye for signs of high blood pressure in vessels, which is one of the most common symptoms of heart disease.
The AI is not yet ready to launch for public use but with further testing, it will be able to predict if a patient will suffer from heart disease within the five years of their lifetime.
This article comes from JGBilling, a medical coding outsourcing company