The latest news is that scientist have made a beating heart.

It’s going to take awhile, but what was done is that they took a heart and destroyed all the cells of the heart, leaving behind the framework of blood vessels and supporting connective tissue.

They then took heart cells from a lot of baby rats and let them grow around the scaffolding, making a heart. They filled the heart with nutrition fluid, and then applied a pacemaker and got the heart to beat, although it only managed to pump a tiny bit.
The next step: See if it works in an animal.

Doctors are already using adult stem cells to fix hearts: They insert the muscle stem cells into damaged hearts, and the hearts pump strength improves.

The breakthrough in this study isn’t just that transplanted cells will pump, but the idea of growing the stem cells on scaffolds of a heart.

Theoretically, since the scaffolding has had all the cells removed, it would not be rejected. This means one could take a pig’s heart and use it for scaffolding: Pigs are similar to humans, and like humans come in different sizes (a major problem with human to human heart transplants is that the heart has to fit, unlike the kidney and liver which can be larger or smaller than the person’s original organ).

Then the denatured pig’s heart scaffold could have a person’s own stem cells applied. Forget embryonic cells: It would take 50 million cells to do the trick, and that would be easier to use the cheaper, more abundant stem cell technique recently devised to use your own.

Finally, it means transplanting it into a person.

Scientists are figuring ten years before the first experiment is done on humans.

However, the idea to use scaffolding to grow organs is exciting because it hints how other organs like the bladder and lung could be grown.

This is not the first time the idea of growing organs on a preexisting scaffold: a scaffolding using a synthetic polymer has already been used with bladder tissue from children whose bladders didn’t work due to neurologic problems, and some transplants have already been done to see if the bladders work.

As Drudge would say: Developing….


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket, and she writes medical essays at Hey Doc Xanga Blog.

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