Stem Cells Help Grow Live Human Heart
Posted on: Tuesday, 5 April 2011, 07:19 CDT
Scientists are growing human hearts in laboratories with the help of stem cells, giving hope to millions of cardiac patients around the world.
Researchers at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis believe the lab-developed organs could start beating in a matter of weeks. It’s a huge step towards the first ‘grow-your-own’ heart, and could lead the way into producing other organs such as livers, lungs and kidneys.
The researchers created the organs by removing muscle cells from donor organs. They injected stem cells which multiplied and grew around the structure, eventually forming healthy heart cells.
“The hearts are growing, and we hope they will show signs of beating within the next weeks,” said Dr. Doris Taylor, an expert in regenerative medicine at U of M, according to the Daily Mail.
“There are many hurdles to overcome to generate a fully functioning heart, but my prediction is that it may one day be possible to grow entire organs for transplant,” she added.
The artificial organs have been created using immature ‘master cells’ which have the ability to turn into other types of tissue. This latest experiment follows a series of successful experiments researchers have accomplished in the goal to create artificial organs for potential use in transplants.
Taylor and colleagues have already created beating rat and pig hearts. Although the organs were not strong enough to use in animals, the research proved to be a major step in the goal of producing tailor-made organs.
The researchers reported their latest study results at the American College of Cardiology’s annual conference in New Orleans.
The team used human hearts taken from dead bodies to create the lab-grown hearts. They stripped the cells from the dead hearts using a powerful detergent, leaving ‘ghost heart’ scaffolds made from collagen protein.
The researchers injected the ghost hearts with millions of stem cells — extracted from patients — and supplied with nutrients. The stem cells recognized the collagen heart structure and began to turn it into heart muscle cells. Although the hearts have yet to begin beating, the team believes that when they do, they could be strong enough to pump blood.
However, there are many obstacles obstructing scientists from creating working hearts.
One of the biggest obstacles is getting enough oxygen to the heart through a complex network of blood vessels. Scientists will also need to ensure that the heart cells beat normally.
“We are a long way off creating a heart for transplant, but we think we’ve opened a door to building any organ for human transplant,” Taylor told the Sunday Times.