CLEMSON — Clemson University biological sciences student Meghan Stelly and her father, Alabama cardiovascular surgeon Terry Stelly, investigated a biomedical application following a coronary artery bypass surgery and found that the application allowed the human body to regenerate its own tissue.

Their findings were published in The Annals of Thoracic Surgery.

The biomaterial extracellular matrix (ECM) is a naturally occurring substance that helps regulate cells and can be harvested and processed in such a way that removes all cells, leaving only the structural matrix, which is made of collagen. ECM can be molded into a “bioscaffold” for medical applications to enable a patient’s cells to repopulate and repair damaged tissue.

The researchers were afforded the opportunity to clinically examine a bioscaffold that was implanted five years earlier to close the pericardium, a double-walled sac containing the human heart, following a coronary artery bypass surgery.

“Pathology results revealed that the bioscaffold had remodeled into viable, fully cellularized tissue similar to the native pericardium,” said Meghan. ”Essentially, the human body regrew its own tissue.”

This research demonstrates the long-term effectiveness of this technology as an implant for pericardial closure and cardiac tissue repair.

“Anytime you can have the body regrow its own tissue instead of introducing a foreign object into it is a better outcome for the patient,” she said.

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