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Growing a Human Heart Using Stem Cells

By Erik Gans, 9:00 am on

Lab-grown hearts may soon save the lives of cardiovascular disease patients waiting for a heart transplant, thanks to research conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). There are over 4,000 Americans currently waiting for a heart transplant, but there is a critical shortage of donors. Developing a lab-grown heart has long been a dream of researchers to supersede the need for viable donors. The team at MGH brought this dream closer to reality in a study published earlier this year in Circulation Research. The following explains how this research will benefit seniors, their Wallingford at-home caregivers, and others awaiting transplants.

How to Grow a Heart

The challenges of producing a lab-grown heart include building a scaffold for the heart, finding a viable supply of cardiac cells, and creating a supportive environment for the growth of cells on the scaffold. In this study, 73 hearts that weren’t suitable for transplantation were cleaned with detergent. This stripped theses hearts of cardiac cells while preserving complex vascular structures on which a new heart could be grown. The hearts were stripped of cardiac cells to avoid triggering an immune response that may cause the recipient’s body to reject the heart.

The researchers then used stem cells to grow cardiac tissue on the scaffold. Within two weeks, the lab-grown heart resembled a young but accurately structured heart. The team built a bioreactor to safely house the heart during its development. Finally, they applied electricity to the scaffold and the hearts actually began to beat in response.

Next Steps for Research

The team grew 500 million cells but an actual heart requires tens of billions according to Jacques Guyette, the study’s lead author. However, a short-team benefit to heart patients is that the team’s next project is drawing on this research to create partial heart implants grown from patients’ stem cells. The next phase of research gives cause for physicians and Wallingford home care agencies to hope for a future where heart transplants will be available to those who need them.

Living with a heart condition can be difficult for seniors to handle alone. You can help your loved one maintain independence while managing his or her disease with help from Home Care Assistance of Wallingford. Not only do we provide flexible at-home care for seniors with cardiovascular disorders, but we also provide Alzheimer’s, dementia, and post-stroke Wallingford home care to help seniors manage any disease in the comfort of home. Call (203) 955-1915 today to schedule a free consultation with a dedicated Care Manager.

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