There is a great number of people who develop heart failure every year. Those who need a heart transplant have to wait for a compatible organ from another person’s body and the time they spend waiting for a transplant can be very long. Moreover, a patient’s body does not always accept the transplant.
But, apparently, there’s now hope for all those who are waiting for a heart transplant. Scientists from Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital have grown a functional heart from human skin cells in a lab. Additionally, researchers from Tel Aviv University have successfully 3D-printed a heart which has blood vessels, cells, chambers, and ventricles.
This development, as well as the functional human heart, may someday put an end to the problem of shortage of hearts people from all over the world face today.
How Was The World’s First Functional Heart Grown?
Scientists from Harvard Medical school and Massachusetts General Hospital first took 73 donor hearts which were deemed unsuitable for transplantation.
Then they removed cells from the donor hearts and replaced them with skin cells which had been turned into pluripotent stem cells. Pluripotent stem cells are the types of cells which can be specialized to any part of the body by using messenger RNA. Next, the scientists caused the stem cells to develop into 2 kinds of cardiac cells.
Then they mimicked the environment a person’s heart would normally grow within and they infused the cardiac cells with a nutrient solution which encouraged growth. After some time, the hearts showed electrical conductivity.
You can find more information about this study here
How Did Researchers From Tel Aviv University 3D-Print A Heart?
First, they took a biopsy of patients’ fatty tissue. Then they separated the cellular components from the non-cellular components of the tissue. Next, they turned the cells into pluripotent stem cells and the extracellular matrix was processed into a personalized hydrogel which they used as ink for 3D printing.
After the researchers mixed the cells with the hydrogel, they directed them to develop into cardio or endothelial cells so as to form immune-compatible cardiac patches with blood vessels and, finally, an entire heart.
You can find more information about this experiment here
This is undoubtedly the first time anyone has successfully managed to engineer and print a human heart complete with blood vessels, chambers, cells, and ventricles. Although the printed heart is very small, this development is important as it shows the potential of the researchers’ approach for developing personalized tissue and replacement of organs in the future.
Additionally, the fact that this printed heart is made from human cells and a patient’s biological materials means that the biomaterial should have the same biochemical, topographical, and mechanical properties of the patient’s tissues. This biocompatibility is vital to eliminating the risk of implant rejection.
The researchers hope that they’ll soon teach the printed hearts to behave like real hearts, i.e. pump and that they’ll prove the efficacy of their method.
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