A team of scientists from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical school have succeeded in successfully growing a human heart using adult skin cells – stem cells – as per a study that has been published in Circulation Research.
The breakthrough could be the next big news for the four thousand Americans that are currently on waiting lists for heart transplants and the twenty-five million people who become the victim of heart failure on a yearly basis. In the US only, about 2,500 out of the 4,000 people waiting for heart transplants are actually able to receive. This is a high shortage that will be addressed by research such as this.
As per the journal, the scientists used 73 donor hearts that were diagnosed as unfit for transplantation and stripped away the cells on those hearts, replacing them with skin cells. These skin cells had been transformed into pluripotent stem cells by making use of messenger RNA. The pluripotent stem cells can be specialized to any part of the human body. After making the stem cells to develop into two types of cardiac cells, the team then provided them with an environment similar to the kind where a human heart would grow within and then infused the cardiac cells with a nutrient solution for the sake of facilitating growth.
After two weeks, the team provided the hearts with a shock using electricity, and they started beating. The tissue inside the hearts seems to be functional and well-structured. The ultimate goal is to be able to grow a complete human heart that can then be transplanted.
The team of scientists writes in the journal, ‘To show that functional myocardial tissue of human scale can be built on this platform, we then partially recellularized human whole-heart scaffolds with human induced pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes. Under biomimetic culture, the seeded constructs developed force-generating human myocardial tissue and showed electrical conductivity, left ventricular pressure development, and metabolic function.’