Biocompatible Carbon Nanotube–Chitosan Scaffold Matching the Electrical Conductivity of the Heart
The major limitation of current engineered myocardial patches for the repair of heart defects is that insulating polymeric scaffold walls hinder the transfer of electrical signals between cardiomyocytes. This loss in signal transduction results in arrhythmias when the scaffolds are implanted. We report that small, subtoxic concentrations of single-walled carbon nanotubes, on the order of tens of parts per million, incorporated in a gelatin–chitosan hydrogel act as electrical nanobridges between cardiomyocytes, resulting in enhanced electrical coupling, synchronous beating, and cardiomyocyte function. These engineered tissues achieve excitation conduction velocities similar to native myocardial tissue (22 ± 9 cm/s) and could function as a full-thickness patch for several cardiovascular defect repair procedures, such as right ventricular outflow track repair for Tetralogy of Fallot, atrial and ventricular septal defect repair, and other cardiac defects, without the risk of inducing cardiac arrhythmias.