If experiments going on at the University of Minnesota's heart lab succeed, there could be a way to 'grow your own heart' in due course of time, a development that will find a way around heart transplants that force lifetime use of anti-immunity drugs.
The human heart, which is 'growing' in the laboratory could start beating within weeks, Britain's Daily Mail reported on Monday, quoting a scientist involved in the project. The report says the breakthrough technology could also pave the way for making other organs like liver, lungs and kidneys in labs.
The hearts are growing, and we hope they will show signs of beating within the next weeks, the Mail quotes Dr Doris Taylor, an expert in regenerative medicine at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, as saying. However, the scientist said there will be too many hurdles before a transplant-ready organ is developed.
There are many hurdles to overcome to generate a fully functioning heart, but my prediction is that it may one day be possible to grow entire organs for transplant.
The heart was grown using stem cells from patients, which means there will be less chance of rejection unlike the transplanted heart from a donor.
Researchers in Taylor's team used human hearts taken from dead bodies to develop the new heart. First they stripped cells from the dead hearts with a powerful detergent, leaving ‘ghost heart’ scaffolds made from the protein collagen. Then millions of stem cells taken from a patient and boosted with nutrients, were injected into the ghost heart. The stem cells then recognized the collagen heart structure and began to turn into heart muscle cells, the report says.
Taylor admitted they are a long way off creating a heart for transplant, according to the Sunday Times. ...but we think we’ve opened a door to building any organ for human transplant.
However, the announcement by scientists was also greeted with some amount of skepticism. Some people commenting on the news asked if the scientists were truly confident that the heart will start beating very soon, why would not they wait until that actually happened rather than going to press with what looks like a half-baked invention.
Some others were worried that unwarranted hype, both by the media and the scientific community, is undermining serious research. Another person, who claims to be a scientist, wrote the news is misleading. All they have produced is a clump of useless tissue that responds to an electrical signal! the commentator wrote on the Mail's discussion form.
The Mail says that Taylor’s team has already created beating rat and pig hearts. The question is, if the human heart too will start beating in time. There are also hurdles beyond this. One of the biggest is getting enough oxygen to the organ through a complex network of blood vessels, according to the report.