A team of scientists at the University of Pittsburgh have… grown human heart tissue that can beat on its own. The process, involving decellularized mouse hearts and induced pluripotent stem cells, is… one of the biggest breakthroughs in modern medicine.
[I]n 2008, researchers at the University of Minnesota demonstrated that you could remove all of the original rat cells from a rat heart using a process called decellularization. This process, which uses enzymes and detergents to wash away the rat cells, leaves behind a protein-based heart husk — or scaffold, as it’s known in the tissue growth industry. The researchers then introduced rat stem cells, and watched as the husk was slowly regenerated into a working, beating heart.
The University of Pittsburgh scientists have essentially done the same thing, but with a mouse heart — and human stem cells. Excitingly, the researchers use induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) — stem cells that are manually created from normal cells, such as those gathered from a skin biopsy.
These iPSCs are then treated to become multipotential cardiovascular progenitor (MCP) cells, which can become the three types of cell found in the human heart (cardiomyocytes, smooth muscle cells, and endothelial cells). These MCPs are introduced to a decellularized mouse heart sitting in a Petri dish, the cells latch onto the heart scaffold, and after 20 days the heart starts beating again at 40 to 50 beats per minute.