Scientists report that they are trying to grow live human hearts in the laboratory. Dr. Doris Taylor of the University of Minnesota presented her team’s latest work at the annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology over the weekend.
The team took human cadaveric hearts and removed all of the cells using a detergent solution, leaving behind the extracellular matrix or scaffold, composed primarily of collagen protein. Then they added adult stem cells from human patients; the adult stem cells bound to the heart protein scaffold and began to form cardiac cells, essentially growing heart muscle on the protein scaffold within a lab bioreactor.
According to Dr. Taylor:
‘The hearts are growing, and we hope they will show signs of beating within the next weeks. 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.”
Taylor’s team has previously shown the possibility of this procedure by creating beating rat hearts in the lab. The work was published in 2008 in the journal Nature Medicine, including video of the beating re-built heart.
Using a patient’s own adult stem cells prevents problems of transplant rejection. The method of “seeding” a de-cellularized protein matrix to re-grow an organ has been used by others as well, including Dr. Paolo Macchiarini and colleagues, who have successfully grown and transplanted new windpipes for several patients.
Other researchers have shown success using a patient’s own adult stem cells to treat and even reverse heart damage.