Scientists grow human heart in lab
22 August, 2013
ISLAMABAD: Scientists are growing human hearts in lab which they believe could start beating within weeks, offering hope to millions of cardiac patients.
The experiment is a major step towards the first 'grow-your-own' heart, and could pave the way for made-to-order livers, lungs or kidneys.
The organs were created by removing muscle cells from donor organs (from dead bodies) to leave behind tough hearts of connective tissue.
Researchers then injected stem cells which multiplied and grew around the structure, eventually turning into healthy heart cells, the Daily Mail reports.
Doris Taylor, expert in regenerative medicine at the University of Minnesota, said: "The hearts are growing, and we hope they will show signs of beating within the next weeks."
"There are many hurdles to overcome to generate a fully functioning heart, but my prediction is that one day it may be possible to grow entire organs for transplant," added Taylor.
Patients given normal heart transplants must take drugs to suppress their immune systems for the rest of their lives.
This can increase the risk of high blood pressure, kidney failure and diabetes. If new hearts could be made using a patient's own stem cells, it is less likely these would be rejected.
The lab-grown organs have been created using these types of cells - the body's immature 'master cells' which have the ability to turn into different types of tissue.
Taylor's team has already created beating rat and pig hearts. Although they were too weak to be used in animals, the work was an important step towards tailor-made organs.
However, the race to create a working heart faces many obstacles. One of the biggest is getting enough oxygen to the organ through a complex network of blood vessels. Scientists also need to ensure the heart cells beat in time.