Our heart can be easily broken and now we refer to its literal sense making it so weak that only transplantation can save our life.
According to the latest data about 4,186 Americans are currently on the heart transplant list. Not many of them will live the day for the new heart as the list is very long and there are not enough hearts from donors. In addition to this around 610,000 Americans die from heart disease every year. However, there might be a new hope for all these patients and that is growing a transplantable heart in laboratories.
According to a conducted study released in the journal Circulation Research, a group of researchers has managed to grow a beating human heart by using stem cells.
Even if the patient is lucky enough to have a new heart, the operation may cause complications, and the body may reject the new heart considering it as a threat. Eventually, the body will destroy it and in order for such thing to be prevented patients need to take medication to suppress their immunity. So, this new study may prevent all this from happening.
Before the actual study there has been a previous research that has been focused on using 3D printers in order to create 3D heart segments by using biological material. Theresulting structures do not have any heart cells; however they offer a scaffold on which real tissue may grow.
Thanks to this research the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School researchers have combined these findings with stem cells, and the results were fascinating.
A Human Heart from Stem Cells
For this study, the researchers used 73 human hearts that were unsuitable for transplantation. They were immersed in solutions of detergent in order to eliminate any cells that may trigger the self-destructive response. This process allowed the creation of the scaffold of the human heart, filled with blood vessels and thus created a suitable foundation.
Pluripotent stem cells
The pluripotent stem cells can be developed from human skin cells and become bone, nerve, and even muscle cells in the body.
The researchers used the skin cells and turned them into pluripotent stems cells. These cells were soaked in a nutrient solution making them grow on the scaffold. After two weeks the cells have become a part of an immature heart. The researchers used electricity to revive the heart and to their greatest surprise the heart started to beat. The body considers these cells “friendly”, and may not destroy them. Naturally, the original skin cells have to come from the same body so that it works.
The lead author of the study, Jacques Guyette, a biomedical researcher at the MGH Center for Regenerative Medicine said that his team will strive to better the used methods and thus produce more cardiac cells. In order for the researchers to create a growing heart it needs “tens of billions” heart cells, and up to now they have “made” 500 million stem cell-derived heart cells.
It will need more work for the researchers to reach the set goal, but this study is a step closer to making a new, healthy organ saving many patients that are on the heart transplant list.
There have been other methods and techniques that were proven to be successful, but the latest one outdid them all. Let us hope that the researchers will quickly finish what they have started and thus offer a new hope for the people who are desperate in the need for a new heart.