Growing New Hearts in a Lab - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

1/14/08

Growing New Hearts in a Lab

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Source: University of Minnesota Source: University of Minnesota

Some are calling this the "Holy Grail of Medical Research," a beating heart has been created by scientists in a lab at the University of Minnesota.    

Researchers started with the dead heart of a rat and, using a detergent, washed away all of its cells until all that was left was a gelatin-like framework. Scientists took that framework and injected new heart cells from newborn rats back into it. Within a week, the heart was beating and pumping once again.

Dr. Doris Taylor with the University of Minnesota said, "It's really been science fiction in the past and we like to think that we've helped make it science."  Dr. Taylor added, "What we've done is hopefully open a door to the idea that we can actually begin to build, not just pieces of tissue and organs, but build organs."

While a rat heart couldn't help humans, a pig heart could.  So now, Dr. Taylor says that the goal is to take the framework of a pig heart, inject the stem cells of a potential transplant recipient, and watch that grow into a heart that matches the recipient thereby eliminating the need for anti-rejection drugs.

With this new technology, University of Minnesota researchers believe that someday they'll be able to create new livers, pancreas, kidneys, and lungs saving not just thousands, but millions of lives.

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