Coming fresh on the heels of the news that scientists are successfully 3D printing live, working, mini human kidneys, a new report in Nature is giving another burst of hope to the future of organ transplants. For the very first time, a research team has been able to grow human heart tissue that beats totally autonomously in its petri dish home.
The tissue itself came from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), which started as mature human skin cells and effectively “reprogrammed” back to an embryonic state and then coaxed into becoming the desired cell, in this case those with the potential to become heart tissue or multipotential cardiovascular progenitor (MCP) cells. This is the same method that scientists recently used for the far less practical, far more nausea-inducing feat of growing human teeth from urine.
Then using a decellularized mouse heart (which is basically exactly what it sounds like—a mouse heart stripped of all its cells, leaving behind a heart framework or “scaffold”), the researchers repopulated the heart scaffold with the MCP cells.