Human hearts created in the
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SCIENTISTS are growing the first living human hearts to be created in a
laboratory -- a breakthrough that could one day spare transplant patients the
long, uncertain wait for a donor
Australian experts have greeted news of the experiments as an exciting
breakthrough, although they say practical application of the technology remains
US researchers have revealed they made the hearts by stripping cells from the
hearts of people who had died, leaving behind the organ's tough protein
skeleton, known as a "ghost heart".
The researchers seeded eight ghost hearts with living human stem cells, which
successfully stuck to them and then, crucially, started turning into heart
"The hearts are growing and we hope they will show signs of beating within the
next week," said Doris Taylor, a specialist in regenerative medicine at the
University of Minnesota. "There are many hurdles to overcome to generate a fully
functional heart, but the hope is that it may one day be possible to grow entire
organs for transplant."
She revealed the research at the American College of Cardiology's annual meeting
in New Orleans at the weekend. It follows a series of successes by her team in
growing beating animal hearts.
The team has also taken the ghost hearts of rats and pigs and seeded them with
human stem cells. Again, the cells multiplied, colonised the structure and
started to beat independently.
The beating strength was up to 25 per cent that of a normal heart, but the fact
the hearts were beating at all was seen as a triumph.
National Heart Foundation chief medical adviser James Tatoulis said the results
were "an incredibly exciting breakthrough" and bore similarities to work by
experts from Melbourne's O'Brien Institute, where researchers have grown stem
cells in culture, which then turned into heart cells and beat.
However, Professor Tatoulis said the technology was likely to remain
experimental for several decades because of the heart's complexity.
Even if the technology could be perfected, it was unclear whether it could ever
be used to grow hearts from a patient's own cells -- thus avoiding the potential
for rejection, he said.
( Courtesy: The Australian: