Cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains the leading cause of death in Western countries. Post-myocardial infarction heart failure can be considered a degenerative disease where myocyte loss outweighs any regenerative potential. In this scenario, regenerative biology and tissue engineering can provide effective solutions to repair the infarcted failing heart. The main strategies involve the use of stem and progenitor cells to regenerate/repair lost and dysfunctional tissue, administrated as a suspension or encapsulated in specific delivery systems. Several studies demonstrated that effectiveness of direct injection of cardiac stem cells (CSCs) is limited in humans by the hostile cardiac microenvironment and poor cell engraftment; therefore, the use of injectable hydrogel or pre-formed patches have been strongly advocated to obtain a better integration between delivered stem cells and host myocardial tissue. Several approaches were used to refine these types of constructs, trying to obtain an optimized functional scaffold. Despite the promising features of these stem cells’ delivery systems, few have reached the clinical practice. In this review, we summarize the advantages, and the novelty but also the current limitations of engineered patches and injectable hydrogels for tissue regenerative purposes, offering a perspective of how we believe tissue engineering should evolve to obtain the optimal delivery system applicable to the everyday clinical scenario.
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