Currently, in the U.S, about 4,186 people are patiently waiting for a heart transplant. The problem is, there are less donor and not all these patients are liable to survive. It has been a long-standing dream of the medical community and in the journal, growing transplantable hearts in the laboratory. A study in the journal circulation research has taken a step closer to make this a reality:

A beating human heart has been grown successfully by a team of researchers in the laboratory using stem cells.

By making use of biological materials, previous research has shown how 3D printers can be used to make 3D heart segment. There are no actual heart cells in this experiment, but the arrangement provides the platform where the growth can take place.

At the moment, a team of researchers from both Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School has taken this concept far beyond our expectation and combined it with the stem cells, coming out with some fantastic result.

Lack of donors is not only the problem with heart transplant, other problem may arise like for instance; the receiver’s body might reject the new organ. The patient immune system will always be awakening to detect the foreign tissue as a threat to the body; hence, the immune system will fight and destroy the tissue.  To prevent this from happening, drugs that make the immune system inactive are administered, and the success rate of this is somewhat low.

The Study

The research was performed with 73 human hearts considered not in good shape for transportation and were carefully placed in a solution of detergent to take off any cells capable of triggering any effect. A matrix of the heart was the only thing left which is complete with its complex structures and vessels, serving as a new foundation where a new heart cell can be grown.

Pluripotent stem cells now come into the picture, these ancient stem cells have the tendency to become any kind of cell in the human body, including nerve, bone and even muscle, even those muscles found inside the heart.

Due to this research, the skin cells of human were manipulated to become pluripotent stem cells. These human cells were stimulated to become two types of heart cells and they were revealed that they develop and grow on the lab scaffold when washed in solution containing nutrient.

With a rough estimate, about 610,000 people in the U.S die from heart disease; could this research in motion be a breakthrough someday, saving those likely to be killed by this killer?

After a week time, the lab-grown heart cells have already looked like an immature but complex structure of a heart. The team performing this experiment channeled a burst of electricity, and the heart began beating like a life one.

A patient immune system will recognize any heart grown this way as “friendly” because the original skin cells were gotten from their own body at the beginning of the experiment. This implies that these hearts grown in the lab would not be rejected by the patients and also there is no need to wait for donor.

In a statement said by Jacques Guyette, “we are moving to the next phase by improving the methods in generating more cardiac cells” He is a biomedical researcher at MGH Center for Regenerative Medicine and lead author of the study.

Guyette added by saying “This study has manufactured a whooping 500 million stem cell-derived heart hearts cells for this method and regrowing an entire heart would actually estimate to tens of billions.

Despite the shortcoming of growing a whole, mature human heart in a lab by using a patient’s own, we can say this is the highest point anyone has ever reached in achieving this goal, and we are proud to say it is a remarkable effort.