Heart Health

02 April 2007

Heart tissue grown in lab

British medical researchers have grown human heart tissue from stem cells in a breakthrough that offers a possible solution to a shortage of donors for heart transplants.

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British medical researchers have grown human heart tissue from stem cells in a breakthrough that offers a possible solution to a shortage of donors for heart transplants, a newspaper said Monday.

The Guardian newspaper reported that if animal trials scheduled for later this year prove successful, replacement tissue could be used in transplants for heart disease patients within three years.

Researchers led by Magdi Yacoub, a professor of cardiac surgery at Imperial College London, have grown tissue from stem cells in bone marrow that works in the same way as the valves in human hearts, it said.

Stem cells are immature cells that grow into various tissues.

Whole heart in 10 years
Yacoub, who has worked for a decade on how to deal with a shortage of donated hearts for transplant, said the work had brought the goal of growing a whole human heart closer.

"It's an ambitious project but not impossible. If you want me to guess, I'd say 10 years," he was quoted as saying.

"But experience has shown that the progress that is happening nowadays makes it possible to achieve milestones in a shorter time.

"I wouldn't be surprised if it was some day sooner than we think."

There is a shortage of replacement organs, and though some of the functions can be reproduced by artificial systems, not all can.

Growing replacement tissue from stem cells has been a key goal of scientists. If a damaged part of the body can be replaced by tissue that is genetically matched to the patient, it cannot be rejected.

Organs more complicated
Scientists until now have grown tendons, cartilage and bladders but none of these has the complexity of organs.

World Health Organisation figures, The Guardian said, show that there were 15 million deaths from heart disease in 2005. By 2010, it is estimated that 600 000 people around the world will need replacement heart valves.

The heart valve research will be published in August in a special edition of the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, The Guardian said. – (Sapa-AFP)

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