INDIANAPOLIS - As the epidemic of heart disease continues to spread, Indiana doctors and researchers are on the cutting edge of new technology to help patients actually regrow their own heart tissue.
The extra-cellular matrix is a patch material invented at Purdue University that provides a structure for patients' bodies to fill in with new, health heart tissue.
Dr. Marc Gerdisch, a surgeon at St. Francis Hospital, was the first in the world to use the patch.
"That breakthrough is extremely exciting," he said. "The materials that we had before this that we used to reconstruct the cardiovascular system were and are limited by the fact that they're either dead or they are synthetic, and there are downsides to both of those. This is the only thing like this."
The implanted material eventually disappears, and there's no rejection, since only the patient's cells are left behind. It also prevents the need for additional surgeries later in life.
"The impact on the cardiovascular population is enormous," Gerdisch said. "It would also increase the likelihood of restoring someone to completely normal physiology; in other words, having a normal heart again."
The Purdue researcher who invented the patch made it his life's work, spending decades developing the material.
Gerdisch said he's also seen very promising animal trial to regrow heart valves and muscle, too.
And the advancements can't come soon enough. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of adult men and women in America.
"There's no doubt that we are at a critical time in this technology especially," Gerdisch said. "I would say that things have accelerated more in the last several years than they have in the previous couple of decades."