Hydrogel based approaches for cardiac tissue engineering
Heart failure still represents the leading cause of death worldwide. Novel strategies using stem cells and growth factors have been investigated for effective cardiac tissue regeneration and heart function recovery. However, some major challenges limit their translation to the clinic. Recently, biomaterials have emerged as a promising approach to improve delivery and viability of therapeutic cells and proteins for the regeneration of the damaged heart. In particular, hydrogels are considered one of the most promising vehicles. They can be administered through minimally invasive techniques while maintaining all the desirable characteristics of drug delivery systems. This review discusses recent advances made in the field of hydrogels for cardiac tissue regeneration in detail, focusing on the type of hydrogel (conventional, injectable, smart or nano- and micro-gel), the biomaterials used for its manufacture (natural, synthetic or hybrid) and the therapeutic agent encapsulated (stem cells or proteins). We expect that these novel hydrogel-based approaches will open up new possibilities in drug delivery and cell therapies.