Scientists Use Stem Cells to Grow Full Sized Beating Human Hearts

Patti MayonnaiseMarch 21, 20161,045 Views
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With about 4,000 Americans currently awaiting heart transplants, a meager 2,500 of these patients will actually receive new hearts within the next year. Furthermore, those individuals who are lucky enough to gain this opportunity have to face the stark reality of their own bodies potentially rejecting the organ with a massive immune reaction warring against foreign cells. In order to battle these unfortunate issues of shortages and immunity rejections, researchers have worked to develop synthetic organs from patients’ very own cells.

Through these studies, a team of scientists with Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School have managed to make a giant leap towards the ultimate goal. They have utilized adult skin cells to regenerate functioning human heart tissue. Though there is still quite a way to go, researchers have indeed made a remarkable step towards growing complex architectural organ structures in a lab. Previously, scientists had merely created a technique using a detergent solution that strips a donor organ of cells setting off an immunity response inside the recipient.


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In that particular study, mouse hearts were used. Now, human hearts are being used to strip away cells on 73 donor hearts which were deemed unfit for transplantation. Following this success, researchers took adult skin cells using a brand new technique of messenger RNA into pluripotent stem cells. These cells then become specialized to a specific cell type within the body ultimately inducing them to transform into two different cardiac cell types.

After assuring that the matrix remainders offered a stable foundation for the new cells, researchers placed the induced cells inside. Over the course of two weeks, the hearts were infused with nutrient solutions allowing them to grow under similar forces as a heart inside of the human body. After this two week period, these hearts possessed well structured tissues which mirrored that of any immature heart. The team then gave the hearts an electric shock to make them begin beating.


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Though this is not the first lab grown heart tissue, it is the closest science has come to the end goal of growing entire working human hearts. While the scientists admit that they are not yet able to do that, they are improving the planning process of creating pluripotent stem cells that will mature more quickly. Ultimately, they hope to create individualized hearts for patients without side effects or chance for transplant rejection.

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