Beating Heart Grown in Petri Dish

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artificalheartScientists have reached a new level in the use of stem cells to grow organs. Human heart tissue that was grown in a petri dish contracted spontaneously, encouraging news for the millions of people who die from cardiovascular ailments annually. Complications associated with organ transplants have limited the number of those with cardiovascular disease from getting the life-saving transplants they need. The ability to grow a new heart for patients whose lives depend on having a transplant procedure would give new hope for saving lives.

The team of scientists from the University of Pittsburgh, PA, performed the procedure that was reported in Discovery science news. Using induced pluripotent stem cells from human skin cells as precursor heart cells, or MCPs, the induced pluripotent stem cells, or IPS, were reprogrammed so that they were returned to a primitive state that would allow them to be changed into any cell needed for the body. These cells were then attached to a scaffold from a mouse heart that was free of the mouse’s heart cells. According to the article printed in the scientific journal, Nature Communications, the scaffold consists of non-living tissue containing carbohydrates and proteins to which cells attach and grow. After growing and developing for twenty days, the cells started to spontaneously contract at a rate of 40 to 50 beats each minute.

In the future, scientists will need to learn ways of making the heart contract strongly enough to effectively supply blood and also to rebuild its electrical conduction system. Scientists believe they may be able to learn to replace damaged heart tissue in those who have had a heart attack even sooner. Eventually, the hope is to be to replace entire organs so that those with life-threatening diseases can lead longer, healthier lives.

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