A breakthrough development could save lives of millions of people in America suffering from heart disease and failure.
Every year, over half a million people lose their lives in the United States due to heart failure, and thousands of them waiting for a suitable transplant. However a new scientific paper has come up with a potential answer to this deficiency: growing new ones.
A team of researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Center for Regenerative Medicine (CRM) decided to do so. Published in the journal Circulation Research this week, their work proved that the idea can possibly become a game changer. The researchers used skin cells reprogrammed into stem cells for to produce functional heart tissue.
The idea would not only eradicate the need for perfect match donors, but would significantly decrease the probability of immune-rejection. Taking into consideration that an estimated 22 people lose their lives every day awaiting an organ, the implications could be significant.
The team, headed by Dr. Harold C. Ott, assistant professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School, is based on past studies on rats. For the generation of a new heart, the researchers require what is known as a scaffold for bringing it into a shape. The process of growing this part of the heart, composed of proteins, is long and hard.
To avoid the move, the researchers used 75 donated hearts from the New England Organ Bank. Each of the hearts was unsuitable for transplantation, and the deceased either had brain dead or have had suffered cardiac arrest.
With the help of these hearts, the team used a ‘detergent’ that strips it of leftover living cells. After the absence of the components, the researchers got a perfect scaffold for seeding the new cells.
The ultimate step was known as genetic manipulation, and it included reprogramming skin cells, with the help of RNA, into stem cells and putting them into the heart to replicate the real environment.
Dr. Jacques Guyette, one of the study’s lead researchers, said, “Generating functional cardiac tissue involves meeting several challenges”.
According to a report in HNGN by Catherine Griffin, "In this latest study, the researchers examined a total of 73 human hearts that couldn't be used for transplantation. The researchers then decellularized the hearts and examined the remaining cardiac scaffolds. After that, they then reprogrammed skin cells with messenger RNA factors. Then, they caused the pluripotent cells to differentiate into cardiac muscle cells. In the end, the researchers managed, for the first time, to regenerate human heart muscle from pluripotent stem cells within a cell-free, human, whole heart matrix."
"Regenerating a whole heart is most certainly a long-term goal that is several years away, so we are currently working on engineering a functional myocardial patch that could replace cardiac tissue damaged due a heart attack or heart failure," Guyette said. "Among the next steps that we are pursuing are improving methods to generate even more cardiac cells-recellularizing a whole heart would take tens of billions-optimizing bioreactor-based culture techniques to improve the maturation and function of engineered cardiac tissue, and electronically integrating regenerated tissue to function within the recipient's heart."
"The study, published in Circulation Research, included 73 human hearts that had been donated through the New England Organ Bank but were deemed unsuitable for transplantation, Science Daily reported. The researchers used a process developed by team leader Harald Ott to strip the living cells from a donor organ with a detergent solution and repopulate the remaining extracellular matrix scaffold with organ-appropriate types of cells. The process had successfully been carried out on rat kidneys and lungs," according to a news report published by fOXNEWS.
The organs were then mounted for 14 days in an automated bioreactor system developed by researchers to both perfuse the organ with nutrient solution and apply environmental stressors to reproduce conditions within a living heart, Science Daily reported.
In a report published by the TheDailyBeast, "That's exactly what a team of researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital's Center for Regenerative Medicine (CRM) set out to do. Their work, published this week in the journal Circulation Research, proves the idea has the potential to be a game changer. Using skin cells reprogrammed into stem cells, the researchers were able to generate functional heart tissue."
To bypass this step, the researchers used 75 hearts from the New England Organ Bank. All of the hearts were deemed unfit for transplantation, the deceased either brain dead or having suffered cardiac arrest. Through these hearts, the team was able to use a "detergent" that strips it of remaining living cells. Once these components were gone, the researchers were left with a perfect scaffold to seed the new cells.