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Can Scientists Grow Functional Hearts in a Lab?

Today there are nearly 5,000 people waiting for a donated heart. There are not nearly enough donated hearts to meet this demand. Unfortunately, many of these patients will die before a suitable heart is ready for them. Giving these patients a custom grown human heart is an option that would save many lives. Until very recently this was just a pipe dream, but scientists are giving new hope to live-in Columbus caregivers who care for seniors with heart disease.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts General Hospital have finally created a beating heart using stem cell tissue. Previous research has used 3D printing technology to create heart segments out of cellular material. These segments did not have any actual heart tissue, but had the proper scaffolding to anchor growing heart tissue.

This new research uses the scaffolding technique combined with stem cells to grow a heart. The new breakthrough was made using poor quality donated hearts. These hearts were first stripped of heart tissue, leaving only the scaffolding of the heart. All of the tissue had to be removed so that a potential patient’s body could not reject the heart.

Next, donor stem cells are seeded into the tissue. The stem cells were engineered from typical skin cells. This technique means that heart recipients would not have to worry about their bodies rejecting the heart because it will be made of their own cells.

At this point in the experiment, the researchers were able to grow two types of heart cells. After two weeks, the lab-grown cells looked like immature hearts. They were small but complicated. After a little jolt of electricity, the new hearts began to beat.

The new technology is not quite ready for the public. The new hearts must go through more testing before they will reach those in need. The technique is still in the earliest phase. One day soon these hearts will give new life to those in need of transplants.

Recovering from heart transplant surgery or living with heart disease poses significant challenges for seniors. To overcome these hurdles, turn to Columbus, OH Home Care Assistance. We are a leading provider of flexible live-in and hourly home care that enables seniors to live comfortably at home while managing their diseases. In addition, we help seniors with heart disease adopt healthy lifestyles consisting of nutritious diet and regular exercise, which promotes greater wellbeing and longevity. Call (614) 481-8888 today to meet an experienced Care Manager and schedule a no-obligation consultation.