Medical science is working hard to deal with the problem of thousands of patients dying due to a lack of heart transplants.
The journal Circulation Research is showing how stem cells are leading to a remarkable innovation that will reduce hearts from being rejected.
For this study, 73 human hearts deemed unsuitable for transplantation were carefully immersed in solutions of detergent in order to strip them of any cells that would provoke this self-destructive response. What was left was a matrix (or “scaffold”) of a heart, complete with its intricate structures and vessels, providing a new foundation for new heart cells to be grown onto.
This is where pluripotent stem cells come in. These “primitive” stem cells have the ability to become almost any type of cell in the body, including bone, nerve, and even muscle – including those found in the heart.
For this research, human skin cells were reprogrammed into becoming pluripotent stem cells. They were then induced into becoming two types of heart cells, which were shown to readily develop and grow on the lab scaffold when bathed in a nutrient solution.