And it started beating on its own.
In a lab, the scientists created a scaffold of nanofibers made of gelatin and a biodegradable plastic. Then they seeded it with living heart cells. After a few days, the heart cells had reproduced, covered the scaffold, and it started to beat.
Housed in a container simulating conditions in a living body, the ventricle kept beating for six months. During that time, the researchers tested its reaction to adrenaline-like substances (it beat faster), inserted catheters to study various aspects of its behavior, and even induced a “heart attack” by poking holes in it.
Next, the scientists hope to grow a more complete heart and carry out more complex tests.
A lab-grown “research heart” could replace animal organs and heart-on-a-chip gadgets that are currently state-of-the-art in cardiac research. Ultimately, the project’s goal is to hasten the day when a person’s own heart cells can be used to grow a clone heart, to test its reactions to various treatments.
This also moves us closer to the day when new hearts can be grown to replace worn-out original equipment.