In the next decade or so, a lot of individuals all over the world needing organ donors would die, because there is a shortage. Unless something miraculous turns up. And fortunately, researchers have been on the verge of discovering something magical that would change everything about life- transplantable organs through stem cells, for quite some time now.
In fact, there have been reports from the science journal Circulation Research that claim that researchers have already developed a throbbing human heart amidst stem cells.
It is important to note that previous experiments had all been about making 3D models of the human heart, by dividing it into segments and parts. The models were all made of biological material, and although not pumping blood, they were perfect for someone trying to base an understanding of what could be.
Then the scientists combined this with stem cells, and voila! Researchers from both Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital were involved in this, and the results they have found are outstanding.
Heart transplant in itself is a very complex surgery. It also leads to many complications, one of which being the body rejecting the transplanted heart. And that would be fatal in any circumstance. To prevent that, patients usually have to take hard medication to ensure that their immunity is severely depleted. But it can open doors to other illnesses.
To study this phenomenon, and possibly bring out measures to stop it, scientists first washed 73 hearts (rejected) with a detergent that would help clean out any cell that could initiate self-destruction. At the end of it, they had with them a 3D heart, complete with arteries, veins, and capillaries, but no cells to function.
The stem cells that the research was conducted on, is a pluripotent stem cell. These have the ability to turn into every nerve, bone, and tissue used in a body. Firstly, the human skin was converted into pluripotent stem cells, which were then later converted into heart cells, by soaking it in a solution filled with nutrients. The cells grew in and around the ‘scaffold’.
In a couple of weeks, the cells were a part of a static heart which started beating when electricity was passed through. As was reported, the body considered the cells to be friendly, as most of them were taken from the host itself.
Jacques Guyette of the MGH Centre for Regenerative Medicine has announced that the team working on it would try to raise the standards from what they have currently developed, and bring out a greater number of cardiac cells.
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Interestingly, when a new heart is ‘grown’, it needs tens of billions of heart cells, but the researchers could only make 500 million of them through stem cells. Yet, this is still a step in the right direction, as it would provide some relief to patients who are waiting for organ transplants.
More than half a million Americans die every year due to heart disease- this will help get the number low.
Every decade sees newer and newer innovations made in every field- but this could be the best ever. For, it hints at a new chance to people who believe death is round the corner. It is only natural to hope that the scientists do know what they are doing, and complete what they have started.