According to Nature Communications a team of researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, in the USA, has successfully grown human heart tissue capable of beating autonomously. For anyone suffering from a cardiovascular disease, or similar heart problems, this is interesting news that could one day bring the research into transplantable replacement hearts; this could quite possibly change the face of cardiovascular medicine.
According to the group’s report, the immature heart is only able to survive in its existing form in a Petri dish, but the progress is nonetheless promising and could lead to something far superior. The tissue itself originated from iPS (induced pluripotent stem cells), which were reprogrammed to an embryonic state before being developed into a specialized cell. In this case, the iPS cells, derived from human skin, were induced into multi potential cardiovascular progenitor (MCP) cells, which are required for the heart to function.
The researchers in the laboratory then took a decellularized mouse heart and repopulated it with the new MCP cells. After a period of a few weeks, the human cells were able to rebuild into a functional organ that, as previously mentioned above, is capable of beating on its own. The territory being explored by the group is still fledgling and new, but the researchers say the heart is contracting at a rate of 40 to 50 beats per minute; it will need to be stronger in order to distribute blood, but the initial readings are positive.
According to current World Health Organization statistics, heart disease is the number one killer around the world, with an estimated 17 million people dying of CVDs. However, science is taking one step closer to perhaps lessening those statistics. In the future, maybe scientists might be able to repair damaged hearts by using a person’s own skin as this early research shows.
[Image via news.discovery]