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Biotech Science

Researchers Create Beating Heart In Lab 258

Posted by kdawson
from the keeps-on-ticking dept.
Sunday Scientist writes "Minnesota researchers have created a beating heart in the laboratory. In a process called whole organ decellularization, they grew functioning heart tissue by using dead rat and pig hearts as a sort of flesh matrix, and reseeding them with a mixture of live cells. The goal is to grow replacement parts, using their own stem cells, for people born with defective tickers or experiencing heart failure."
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Researchers Create Beating Heart In Lab

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  • by hack slash (1064002) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @06:26PM (#22028596)
    Tin Man will be so pleased.
  • by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Sunday January 13, 2008 @06:28PM (#22028606) Homepage
    With the advances in biotechnology, it's amusing to think that Larry Niven in his Gil "The Arm" Hamilton stories (collected in Flatlander [amazon.com] ) foresaw a future where you'd get the death penalty for just about anything just so that the state could rip out your organs for donation into someone needing it. In Niven's future history, the use of organ transplants ends only hundreds of years in the future when alloplasty ("gadgets instead of organs") is developed. Now, in just 2007, we're getting close to synthesizing real organs instead of transplanting or making little machines.
    • by cnettel (836611) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @06:59PM (#22028920)
      Or, maybe, like in many kinds of SF, the specifics of technology available is just as well chosen to make the story interesting, even in hard SF. It's supposed to tickle your imagination, not as a technology roadmap. Hence, to paint the picture of a society where this becomes common practice over the course of generations, of course you need to stipulate that the problem is hard, just like some people chose to assume that somewhat-strong AI or FTL drive is far more feasible than it was maybe reasonable to assume.
      • by Firethorn (177587) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @07:31PM (#22029188) Homepage Journal
        In this case, I figure that the creator was going for serious SciFi, not just a mcguffin to make the story interesting. You just have to remember that even the most expert SciFi writer isn't going to be 100% of on the science of his day - much less how it'll play out in the future.

        Wikipedia placed the publish date of "The Long Arm of Gil Hamilton" in 1976, The first successful kidney transplant was in 1954(for identical twins, so no rejection)and the first human heart & liver transplants were in 1967.

        So, at the time the story was written - humanity seemed to be on a steady march towards being able to transplant more and more organs. Cloning hadn't made the news yet. Stem cells were hardly known to the public.

        So I could see an author, in 1976, positing that eventually our desire for replacement organs might warp society a bit. The usage of convicts sentenced to death for this would be the mcguffin, as would the expansion of death penalty cases.

        Meanwhile, 30 years later we're getting close to being able to clone (just)organs, we've discovered making computers fast and small is easier than large and smart, we have NOT conquered the human mind, space, or the sea like the writers of the '50s thought.

        At least we aren't quite as screwed up as the author of 'soylent green' would have you believe.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by cnettel (836611)
          I really don't see the conflict between serious science fiction and some degree of artistic license. The point is that the scenario should seem conceivable, "this is one possible future development". It doesn't have to be the one that the author her/himself deems the very most likely. After all, if every story written was part of the author's personal ML estimate optimum of the future at the point of writing, one would either run into a complete inability to write any coherent works (the prediction would co
    • In A Gift from Earth, a colony world uses organ harvesting to punish criminals and dissidents, and rewards loyalty to the regime with spare parts.

      In the course of the novel, a slower-than-light starship arrives with a how-to guide for a brand-new technology: Custom-grown organs. The protagonist sees grown-from-seed organs developing in a tank, and assumes that they are from children! Actually, they spell the end of the local tyranny.

      That was in 1968, just a year or two after the first "Gil the Arm" story.
    • by ppanon (16583) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @08:06PM (#22029472) Homepage Journal
      Well, Niven's government ordered organ collection stories may not have been too far off either if Falun Dafa practitioners are to be believed [www.cbc.ca]. There's been ongoing rumours of organlegging in Asia for a while, and even the UK is being more aggressive about organ collection [bbc.co.uk].

      The advantage of using your own stem cells instead of parts of some poor sap cut up for his crimes or beliefs, is that the former should be less subject to rejection. Assuming they ever get this approach viable for use in humans. I'm hoping so because, as the population becomes an increasingly aged one in Western countries, the pressure on organ banks is going to increase. And as the population becomes increasingly obese, the supply of healthy candidates for organ donations is only going to decrease.

      Oh well, it could be worse. Transplants could have been available back when people thought debtor's prison was a good idea.
    • by AJWM (19027)
      I don't know if it'd be correct to describe the gift from Earth as "gadgets"; they were grown organs, not requiring a host body.

      As for Niven's earlier future, you might want to take a closer look at what goes on elsewhere in the world.
    • If something was totally unthinkable in the past and now approaches reality, this can mean only two things: either people don't have imagination or the technological advancement is increasing a lot, perhaps even exponentially. If you can predict clearly where the state of the art will be 50 or 100 years from now then the advancement is probably linear, but if you cannot predict anything then the advancement is probably nonlinear.
  • by G4from128k (686170) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @06:29PM (#22028624)
    This presents a long-term opportunity for the next phase in body modification. Who says that a "replacement" organ must be identical to the original equipment? Perhaps athletes will opt for an enlarged six-chambered heart or an abdominal booster-heart to improve endurance.
    • I doubt it. It would be almost impossible to hide a 6 chambered artificial heart from the IOC doping testers. You'd be much better off just sticking to old fashioned performance enhancing drugs. Someone will probably be dumb enough to try it though.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by sltd (1182933)
      The problem is you would have to make it from existing stem cells. You would probably get them from the person, or wherever. If I understand it correctly, you would be limited to normal human physiology, for compatibility reasons. There's the form factor, yes, but also getting everything connected, and you'd have to actually grow a six-chambered heart. At this stage, they're just barely getting a beating heart, so creative engineering like you're suggesting is, at best, quite a way away.
    • What I've often wondered is why our artificial hearts have a heartbeat. I mean, if it only has to move blood, why don't we use something akin to a centrifugal pump that would move blood in a constant stream instead of thump-thump-----thump-thump-----thump-thump? It seems there are more moving parts in an artificial heart than would be necessary.
      • "What I've often wondered is why our artificial hearts have a heartbeat. I mean, if it only has to move blood, why don't we use something akin to a centrifugal pump that would move blood in a constant stream..."

        That's more than likely to result in your body's finely tuned system malfunctioning. Just imagine taking a "normal" engine out of a car and replacing it with Mazda's Wanker engine - I'm sure you'll end up with with a huge mess, leaking fluids all over the place. Not to mention a broken crank shaft.
        • by G-funk (22712)
          Don't know much about cars, huh? People do that all the time. A mate of mine's got an old Gemmie with no engine awaiting a silly little 12A instead of a real motor.
        • Well, I put a Dodge 360 in a Triumph TR7 and it ran faster than any car we went against ever and I've seen more than my share of other "transplants" so maybe you could find another analogy rather than a car. Besides, your analogy would translate to the Jarvik artificial heart as well since it technically doesn't belong in the human body either.
      • I think there's one that uses the constant stream thing... (read about it on slashdot a few years ago?). I think the downside is that it causes arteries to accumulate stuff (ie: the beats tend to move things that would otherwise settle on the walls).
    • Forget about athletes; just think of all the people who buy viagra now
    • Click h33r f0r y0ur |33+ 6 chambered tr0us3r sn4ke!
    • I think they would prefer to have some glucose/lactic acid sequestering glands placed within large muscle groups. Imagine a 2 km sprinter.

      Captcha = Turgid

      Violent action ensues.
    • by DieByWire (744043)

      This presents a long-term opportunity for the next phase in body modification.

      Great. I can't wait to get more email offering me a new organ...

  • While on the surface this is very exciting and welcome news, understand that this: development still has a very long way to go before it will be truly useful. It will be a very long time until an engineered heart will be placed in a human chest saving someone's life. It may or may not happen in our lifetime (or ever for that matter).

    • Don't go abusing your body assuming you'll be able to get a new heart any time soon.

      Of course, as late as the mid 1950s reputable engineers scoffed at the ideas of flights to the moon. This could come together faster than you can imagine.
      • by DarkOx (621550)

        Don't go abusing your body assuming you'll be able to get a new heart any time soon.

        Of course, as late as the mid 1950s reputable engineers scoffed at the ideas of flights to the moon. This could come together faster than you can imagine.

        It could but I still don't see why exactly I would want to take that chance. I mean it might not be ready in time for me which would result in death. If it is ready in time, then you are still looking at heart transplant surgery which sounds umm, painful and expensive amoung other things. I will stick with the parent posters ounce of prevention mentality, thank you very much.

    • by Firethorn (177587)
      development still has a very long way to go before it will be truly useful.

      You might be surprised. I wouldn't be surprised if it happens in my lifetime.

      They noted that the hearts were beating within 8 days - while I presume it might take longer for effective beating, I could see specially prepared pig hearts be decelled and then reseeded with stem cells from the human patient. A month later, they transplant, with no lingering need for immune suppression drugs.

      While fusion is still two decades away, at lea
    • by autophile (640621)

      It may or may not happen in our lifetime (or ever for that matter).

      Well, now I know where to order my supplies of humidity-saturated bedding ;)

      I kid!

      --Rob

    • by sukotto (122876)
      I just want them to grow me replacement teeth. The combination of poor oral care and weak enamel on my natural ones have messed me up pretty badly.
      There's been some promising work done in the area. Eg. Growing teeth [reuters.com] from stem cells and fabricating bones [howstuffworks.com] with a 3D printer.
      But there's still so far to go :-(
  • by smokejive (1136035) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @06:37PM (#22028710)
    Now the big question is, do I go for the replacement legs that give me more speed and let me jump higher, or do I become more stealthy. Choices, choices...
  • by owlnation (858981) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @06:54PM (#22028868)
    ...it's pronounced "Fronkensteen".
  • I'm firmly in Kurzweil's camp with developments like this. I intend to live just long enough (naturally) that I can live forever (engineered).
    • I intend to live just long enough (naturally) that I can live forever (engineered).

      If you're a boomer, forget it.

      (At the age of about 11, back in the late 1950s, I was expecting medical technology to be able to stimulate the growth of a "third set" of replacement teeth - tooth-by-tooth as necessary, by the time my adult teeth might be worn out or destroyed by decay or misadventure. More than half a century later where's THAT flying car?)

      The FDA approval process takes long enough (currently a minimum of 10
      • by jcr (53032)
        The FDA approval process takes long enough (currently a minimum of 10 years) that even if a treatment useful for your program is perfected TODAY it won't be available in time to be of use. I

        Fortunately, FDA jurisdiction is only over the United States. When you want a new heart, you'll just take a flight to Mexico or India, and have a nice vacation while you're at it.

        -jcr

    • by Raenex (947668)

      I intend to live just long enough (naturally) that I can live forever (engineered).

      What's the probability that something can go wrong so that you don't live forever? I mean, forever is an awfully long time. I'd be surprised if humanity survives for a million years into the future, let alone 1 person. The thing about technology is that the more powerful it is the more destruction just a single person can do -- and that's just one of the threats.

      What about your brain? Is it going to be backed up somewhere so that they could restore it? Can they restore it into two different people? A

  • by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @07:03PM (#22028958)
    ...Of Your Heart.

    It Goes Boom Boody-Boom Boody-Boom Boody-Boom, Boody-Boom Boody-Boom Boody-Boom-Boom-Boom

    Well, Goodness Gracious Me! ...

    Next up on OldTyme Radio overnight, Dr. Hanny Lector and the Cannibals with their top hit, Liver & Chianti. Hope you like it...
  • Not quite creating. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 13, 2008 @07:05PM (#22028988)
    If I'm reading this right, they didn't so much create a new heart as bring a dead one back to life.

    Which is possibly even cooler, and I'm sure you can find 50k hearts a year in the US that wouldn't normally be donatable because of time constraints. (A heart is (normally!) only good for 4 hours after death or removal iirc). And even beyond saved lives, we can hopefully get a better quality of life too, since there should be less time waiting for a transplant with a half dead body.

    Hmm, do modern artificial hearts last 8 days reliably? And would a diseased heart be practical?

    What about organ rejection issues, will those be causes by the dead heart, the stem cells, both?
    • They're not brining a dead heart back to life. They're getting rid of the cells for the dead heart leaving the extracellular structures intact and then reseeding this structure with new cells. Pretty neat. You'll still get rejection issues only if you use cells that aren't from the recipient of said heart. Otherwise, if you're able to use recipient cells to seed, there will be no rejection issues.
  • blimey. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by apodyopsis (1048476) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @07:06PM (#22028992)
    if i read the article and the similar one on the BBC correctly then there was a shell of a heart they laced with stem cells that regrew into a heart functionality- but after 8 days operating at 2% so longer growth term is needed to by functional. this would go part way to solving rejection issue obviously, but if i am correct there is one slight problem you cannot take the patients heart, decellularize it and regrow it with stem cells because (1) bad as he heart is he needs it and (2) you still need to manufacture stem cells in sufficient quantity.

    so there are a few options I see...

    1. one use a dead donor heart as a shell and recellularize (that cannot be the correct term) with the patients stem cells assuming you can get them while he survives on what is left of his old heart and then transplant and hope there is no rejection

    2. transplant the patient with an artificial heart until his old one can be repaired in the lab

    3. find some way to create a fake heart "shell"? maybe extract some tissue from his current heart but not enough to kill him and create a template that the stem cells can be used to grow him a new heart over a few months.

    of course they still need to manufacture a sufficient source of patient stem cells. does this sound reasonable?

    of course in the UK, we have just got a new source of donors... http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/7186007.stm [bbc.co.uk] our prime minister has just decided to add the entire country onto the donor list unless we explicitly opt out. Gill the Arm would be amused...
  • Wow, I mean just wow. To think that most of the organs can be re-grown or replaced would provide a limited form of immortality, just replace an organ when it wears out and not to fear rejection.
    • by Jesus_666 (702802)
      Doesn't quite work for the brain, though. And brain degradation is hardly unheard of in older people.
    • Isn't there still an issue that cells coming from existing body cells "know" they are "Nth" generation and hence already old - ie. you can't regrow an old persons cells like this?
  • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @07:25PM (#22029146) Journal
    In a process called whole organ decellularization, they grew functioning heart tissue by using dead rat and pig hearts as a sort of flesh matrix, and reseeding them with a mixture of live cells. The goal is to grow replacement parts, using their own stem cells, for people born with defective tickers or experiencing heart failure.

    Given that another project also underway is "writing" synthetic organs using a rapid prototyping system (3D plotter) loaded with live cells, structural proteins, and growth factors, the salvaged-and-decellularlized organ should be rendered unnecessary in short order.

    The fact that a substrate with the right chemical markers can be repopulated into a working organ means the process can proceed in two steps. This may make it easier to accomplish - especially by reducing the need for functioning blood-supply plumbing to provide nutrition and oxygenation in the eary stages of construction.
  • by joh (27088) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @07:28PM (#22029162)
    I mean, really. The stinkin' rich will have their hearts replicated and grown one after another just in case, while you and me will just drop down, carried to a hospital, and die. Somehow that's *not* the future I was thinking of when I was young. The bits and pieces (hah!) are there meanwhile, but our society isn't there at all.

    A friend of mine was working in a hospital when some old and ill VIP had a heart failure and he not only got a replacement right away (while others died waiting for a replacement for months), no, he also got a second heart when the first one was rejected by his immune system within a day. Well, he died anyway from unrelated causes soon after, but I can't get over the vision of two otherwise perfectly healthy normal guys dying just because two hearts were *wasted* this way. I want to vomit each time I have to think of that event.

    • I mean, really. The stinkin' rich will have their hearts replicated and grown one after another just in case, while you and me will just drop down, carried to a hospital, and die. Somehow that's *not* the future I was thinking of when I was young. The bits and pieces (hah!) are there meanwhile, but our society isn't there at all. A friend of mine was working in a hospital when some old and ill VIP had a heart failure and he not only got a replacement right away

      Why do you think that would ever change i

      • by Jesus_666 (702802)

        With a capitalistic society, if I am talented enough I can make enough to afford good enough health care and end up being OK.

        Still ain't much of a difference, though. I don't think there are many more people who just happen to be business-savvy enough to build up a multi million dollar fortune from zero than there are people who are charismatic enough to make connections with VIPs. In the end, both systems mostly reward people who just got lucky.

        It's just a different kind of unfairness. If you want actual

  • I hope they have adequate containment measures. We wouldn't want it to just keep growing and growing... [thethunderchild.com]
  • by HiggsBison (678319)

    It has escaped from the laboratory, and is heading for your house.

    You should consider smearing Jello on your kitchen floor and setting fire to your sofa.

  • by Alsee (515537) on Sunday January 13, 2008 @08:04PM (#22029460) Homepage
    ...for my ex-girlfriend?
    I don't think she ever had one.

    -
  • Like growing new arteries for transplant within 24 hrs.

    First heart attack might do a little damage to the heart but provided he survives the first year he should have another 25 years before he clogs up the new ones and by then he'll be having regular checkups.
  • but i remember details from high school biology, where you could put heart cells next to each other on a petri dish, and they would synch their beats

    so the announcement seems like there is this major advance, heart cells beating in tandem, shaped like a heart. but it doesn't seem to take that much more technical acumen than what has been around for a while, as heart cells will naturally synch up

    so they put the cells and grew them in a heart shaped matrix. then biorhythms and mother nature took over

    they've been doing that with skin cells for awhile

    again, not to rain on the parade, but i think the technical leap implied here is being overstated. it's good news nonetheless, and i cheer it
  • Maybe they'll be able to grow a brain so I can replace this one I got from "A. B. Normal".
  • Was the head doctor's name Herbert West?

    (ba-dump-bump. Bump-bump. Bump-bump...)

    --Rob

  • *THUMPTHUMP* *THUMPTHUMP*

    Sadly, this hilarious joke will be too old a reference for most of you kids. *sigh*
    • by Talinom (243100) *
      Sadly, this hilarious joke will be too old a reference for most of you kids. *sigh*

      Wrong! It was the first thing that I thought of when I read the headline.

      Bill Cosby = Wonderfulness [amazon.com].
  • If we could modify this technology, it will become possible to literally give your girlfriend an artificial dick in a box. Er, on second thought, I don't like where this is vangoghing.
  • does it:
    1. blend
    2. run linux

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