STATES CHRONICLE – The heart, although one of the strongest organs in our body, the one that keeps us alive, is also incredibly sensitive and many people struggle with heart conditions. Some of them get to the point in which they need another heart to survive.
Unfortunately, hearts are not something you can come by easily. Even if there are hearts available for donation, from patients who no longer need them, it is still very difficult to find a match.
However, it might be possible that in the near future we will no longer have to wait for a matching heart, as scientists managed to grow functional heart tissue in a laboratory. The functional heart tissue was made out of stem cells created using skin cells. This means that the heart can be grown from the patient’s own cells, assuring a perfect match.
Being already a part of the patient’s body, the newly grown heart is less likely to be rejected by the patient’s immune system. However, the heart cannot be fully grown in a lab as it requires a scaffold to shape the cells. The scaffold is also known as an extracellular matrix. This matrix is made up of proteins secreted by cells.
While forming the heart is difficult, the process also requires the heart to become functional at some point, so building a heart in a lab only from cells is not something easily done and will require a lot of practice until scientists manage to do it perfectly.
So, instead of building the matrices, the researchers used a number of 73 donor hearts determined unsuitable for transplant. The hearts were stripped down to the extracellular matrix, so the scientists had a natural scaffold from which they started. Then, they turned skin cells into stem cells which were made to develop into new cardiac muscle cells.
After the cells had grown into muscle tissue which was contracting, the heart was placed a nutrient solution in a bioreactor which reproduced all conditions of an operating living heart. After 14 days, the heart had already developed muscle tissue which contracted normally.
This means patients could either receive a new heart made up of their own cells, or get their heart regenerated using this new technique. However, there is still a long way to go until scientists will be able to give this new technique a complete green light for human use.
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