British scientists have grown human heart tissues from stem cells for the first time, a breakthrough that could lead to use of artificially grown heart components in transplants within three years.
Researchers led by heart surgeon Sir Magdi Yacoub managed to grow tissue that works in the same way as human heart valves. This could potentially help hundreds of thousands of people who need replacement of the heart valves.
If research trials later this year in animals such as sheeps prove successful, replacement tissues could be used in transplants for heart disease patients within three years, the Guardian reported.
Magdi said a whole heart could be produced from stem cells within 10 years.
“It’s an ambitious project but not impossible. If you want me to guess I’d say 10 years,” he was quoted as saying.
“But experience has shown that the progress that is happening nowadays makes it possible to achieve milestones in a shorter time. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was some day sooner than we think.”
Previously, scientists have grown tendons, cartilages and bladders from stem cells, but none of these had the complexities of organs.
Magdi, professor of cardiac surgery at Imperial College London, and his team extracted stem cells from bone marrow and cultivated them into heart valve cells.
Stem cells are precursor cells that have the potential to turn into different types of cell.
Heart valves do not simply open and close like the artificial alternatives currently used in surgery; they are able to anticipate changes in the way the blood flows, and respond accordingly.