A method to create an artificial heart using the remains of an actual full-sized adult heart that has been stripped of all its cells, but then replanted with neonatal heart cells, may hold promise for its eventual use in transplant surgery. The technique is reported online in Nature Medicine.
About 3,000 patients in the United States await a donor heart; worldwide, 22 million people live with heart failure. An artificial heart is a theoretical alternative for transplantation. Generating an artificial heart requires engineering of the cardiac architecture, appropriate cellular constituents and pump function.
Doris Taylor and colleagues removed all cells from rat hearts by bathing them with detergents. This manipulation allowed them to preserve the underlying tissue, obtaining a heart 'scaffold' with blood vessels, competent heart valves and intact atrial and ventricular geometry. The team then replenished the cardiac cell composition by seeding these scaffolds with neonatal cardiac cells and maintained them in culture conditions that simulated cardiac physiology. Four days later, they observed contractions and, by day 8, their constructs could generate pump function equivalent to about 2% of adult hearts.
Although the in vivo functionality of this artificial heart has yet to be explored, this approach may hold promise for its use in transplant surgery.
Doris Taylor (University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, USA)
Abstract available online.
(C) Nature Medicine press release.
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